Bearing the Cross

In his classic examination of hope in a concentration camp – Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl refers a few times to the notion of “bearing one’s cross”. The phrase is evocative of Jesus being mutilated and made to carry a large cross while walking up to the mountain of Golgotha, where he would die on that very cross. Yet, Jesus knew much earlier that he shall die on the cross and he willingly bore this burden, knowing it as the working of God in his life and the life of his community.

By “bearing the cross” Frankl refers to those human situations where suffering is caused by conditions that cannot be taken away – the loss of a loved one, the loss of faith, an incurable illness and others. When pain cannot be removed, man has two options – to deny it by hardening his heart through the mechanisms of suppression, repression and others that the psychoanalysts have elaborated upon. As we grow older, many of us harden our hearts bit by bit through such processes. But there is a second option. Man may accept suffering to its fullest. He may feel the pain as it is, without trying to eliminate it. In doing so, he retains his dignity as a spiritual being who is more than the sum of his physical and psychological sensations.

It is a privilege that only man (and woman) have in all of creation. While an animal may scream in pain and try all means to eliminate it, man, when he realises that the pain is unavoidable, may accept it in the awareness that this pain leaves the core of his personality – his soul – untouched.

It is this soul that the Krishna refers to in the Bhagavad Gita when he says –

wind cannot blow it away

water cannot moisten it

weapons cannot cut it 

fire cannot destroy it 

The awareness of this undestroyable ‘something’ in us is the beginning of human dignity, an indicator of our special position in the cosmos as witnesses to its spiritual undercurrents beneath the layers of physical and psychic reality. Prayer and meditation are methods of cultivating this awareness, bit by bit, over the decades. The figure of God in our psyche, hopefully amenable to change and growth, becomes the hook on which our sense of beings with a soul depends. By cultivating a relationship with God, we grow in our awareness of the soul, and the greater this awareness, the greater our ability to bear the cross.

“What is to give light must endure burning” – Viktor Frankl

Viktor Frankl

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~ by tdcatss on August 7, 2013.

4 Responses to “Bearing the Cross”

  1. Awesomely poignant, Kaif. I am in love with your writing.

  2. thank you :)

  3. thank you kaif for sharing this!!

  4. :)

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