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T.E.A.M. Tuesday Articles 

Beauty Amidst Barbarism

By Justin Simmons - Aug 8, 2023

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Quiet thoughts in the face of chaos may sound paradoxical, but we can find sanctuary in our mind if we seek it.  Self-reflection and internal discovery are both valuable uses of time- assuming we can do so in a productive manner. When was the last time you disregarded the environment that surrounds you, closed your eyes, and envisioned a beautiful noun (person, place, or thing)? Nothing can stop us from doing this exercise, and it’s a free service available to us at any moment. We want to practice visualizing these beautiful thoughts in private so we can call upon them in times of turbulence.

Upon opening our eyes and reentering the world, it may appear as though nothing has changed, but we are now in control. Choosing to think for ourselves and seek beauty in times of adversity not only regulates our mind in the moment, but also reminds us to search for more beauty in the world to call upon in the future. This unrelenting quest to seek good will motivate us in ways we may often overlook.

Austrian psychiatrist and holocaust survivor, Viktor Frankl, was most famous for the founding of 'Logotherapy’ derived from the Greek word 'Logos', which translates as 'Meaning'. This practice is based on Frankl's notion of how we as humans become compelled by the motivational force we all feel when seeking life’s meaning. He writes of experiences throughout his imprisonment and the atrocities he had witnessed and endured. His work prompts us to ask difficult questions about ourselves in difficult times. In life’s darkest moments, one may question how is anyone to find peace, purpose, or a meaningful existence? He further details through his narrations and teachings that in desperate moments we can still find beauty all around us. Scenes of nature are some of his favorites: trees, flowers and blue skies with contrasting white clouds are all examples of this renewable resource. Other examples may be the strength witnessed in our peers, our own will to survive, and the attitude we possess towards the day (that only we can control). All of these examples serve as forms of life’s purposeful beauty.

I can’t begin to relate to Frankl’s depictions of such a torturous environment, and I’m hopeful anyone reading this article shares my inability to do so. What we may be able to glean from these horrific historical details, however, is a sense of perspective. What we choose to focus on (pleasure or pain) is what we will receive. If those in the worst place imaginable were able to still find hope and purpose, we must recognize the vast advantages we’re afforded by existing in a time of such opportunity. Just waking up, we have more tools and resources than ever before and this should help drive us to seek our true meaning in this life. We simply need to acknowledge the beauty that surrounds us and never lose sight of its significance.

German philosopher, Theodor Adorno said: “To write poetry after Auschwitz is barbarism”. To uncover this a bit, his intention was to convey a message that signified the horrors of this environment and remind us how nothing about this place should ever be glorified. I do not disagree with the sentiment of his words but one must question the effect. Considering the fact that so many who suffered did so with the purpose of surviving and seeking more than just an inevitable death shows us living proof of poetry in action. One may argue Adorno’s claim by stating that poetry should in fact be written about Auschwitz and the sheer heroism that existed within its walls.

Prison walls are built in many variations, with many different purposes-none of which we would ever wish to experience. If we were to find ourselves trapped within such institutions, especially if wrongfully accused, how would we maintain hope and a purpose? This question might simply be impossible to answer without ever having witnessed such a place firsthand. What might be easier to contemplate is the vastly more relatable possibility that we ourselves can, at times, become imprisoned in our own minds. The thoughts that take ahold of us and box us into limited existence can transform our perceived freedoms. If this is, or suddenly became your fate, how do you break yourself out of these walls which only you can control?

We all encounter mental limitations in life; some are temporary, and some will last longer. These limitations can range from basic doubts based on new experiences to crippling fears predicated on the unknown. As we begin to focus on these psychological walls which may govern our abilities, we should think less about how we can change ourselves and more about what is enabling the walls to exist. Once we are clear in what is holding us back, only then should we seek corrective action (if necessary). Oftentimes, simply identifying the cause can eliminate the effect. Finding the beauty in everyday life is a way to offset our emphasis on negative thoughts, and will begin to lower the walls which restrict our ability to see the positive that surrounds us.

Our brain allows us to function in the world we live but might not always be prepared for everything this world is capable of throwing at us. Knowing we have the capacity to sort through the chaos and focus on the beauty will empower us in these moments when we need support the most. Turbulence can distract us and may cause us to lose sight of our dreams. To stay vigilant on that which we desire will take continuous practice. Start by waking up each day with a purpose and a goal to seek-not just waking up. This practice will make us stronger and more resilient to the adversities we face. Simply choosing to find the beauty awaiting you today means you’re already thinking about having a successful day, it's time to complete that thought. Are you ready to discover the power of your mindset? 

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