Without stating the obvious destination, there is a long list of intelligencia I would seek: Jung and Freud, of course. Sagan, Wiesel, Weil, Aquinus, Twain, Jefferson, Hugo, Siddhārtha, Lewis, Kollwitz, Camus, King, Jr., Descartes, Socrates, Gandhi, Bojaxhiu, and well, it's obvious to me that I've spent too much time in my imagination with this concept. I digress. This post isn't really about time-traveling. It's about the one other person in my journey-to-the-past illusion- Viktor Frankl.
For those of you who do not know Frankl, you should. Born in Austria, Frankl (1905-1997) authored one of my favorite books Man's Search for Meaning. He was a neurologist and psychotherapist who, between 1942 and 1945, survived Auschwitz and three other concentration camps, where more than three million died. Included in those who died were his parents and his beloved wife. While imprisoned, he spent time working with others who were suicidal, hopeless, and anguished.
That which is to give light must endure burning.
After being freed in 1945, Frankl fathered a new psychotherapeutic concept: Logotherapy. Logos ( λόγος) is Greek for words, language, speech, and meaning, and therapy is from the Greek therapeuein (Θεραπεύω) which means to heal or treat. Elie Wiesel understood Frankl's concept when he said, "Whosoever survives the test must tell his story. That is his duty." The psychotherapist does not coercively cure, treat, or heal. Rather, healing comes from the sufferer's ability and willingness to, eventually, find words with which to speak of their tragedy and the successive meaning to understand and make sense of it. The sufferer does so as the therapist listens, fully present and in absentia furor sanandi (without a rush to cure).
He acknowledged that logotherapy takes time and great pains. The sufferer's story must evolve in such a way that meaning is discovered. But Frankl, himself a sufferer of horrors I will never know, believed in the potential of human beings. He believed in the power of love to heal. He believed, and practiced, communion with the Other- in a sense, the I-Thou relationship of which Martin Buber speaks. If another person creates a sacred space within which a sufferer can experience acceptance, patience, willingness of the Other to coenter the darkness by their side, and radical loving care (Chapman, 2007), then the sufferer has a much better chance of finding meaning.
It's not a simple task for us mere mortals: to make meaning out of indescribable suffering. Yet, without meaning, there can be no healing. Beyond finding meaning, there is so much more gained than what is lost in the fire. And while we always remember that which was lost in the flames of despair, it is only when we reach the summit beyond our former view of the world that we are able to truly transcend our loss.
So, I would travel back in time and listen to Frankl. I'd sit with him over a cup of dandelion tea and ask him his story. I'd enter the darkness with him, stand with him, and watch as his own meaning, and transcension, unfolded. I would journey by his side as he painfully emerged from the ashes into the beautiful man he was, and watch in reverant awe as he brought light to the world.