Those who have a ’Why’ to live, can bear almost any ’How’...
~ Viktor Frankl
Who of us can imagine a fate worse than that of being in a concentration camp during World War II? The atrocities committed by the Nazis were inhumane and barbaric.
Earlier this year I had the opportunity to read a first-hand account of what it was like to be a prisoner sent to the Auschwitz concentration camp while completing Viktor Frankl’s masterpiece work, Man’s Search For Meaning.
Viktor Frankl was a trained physician and noted psychiatrist before being apprehended and transported, along with his family, to Auschwitz in October of 1944.
There his family was separated, sending his parents to the gas chambers, his wife to another camp where she eventually died, while his brother and he remained as laborers.
Frankl endured severe beatings by his captors, the freezing cold winter elements, malnutrition, and exposure to deadly diseases such as typhoid and cholera while living in the concentration camp.
His brother soon fell victim to the environment and died.
Viktor Frankl somehow managed to survive his ordeal and was liberated by the allied forces in April of 1945.
It was from these first-hand experiences and as a trained practitioner of human psychology that he tried to make sense of the carnage that he had witnessed and ultimately formulated a theory as to what was the purpose of man’s existence.
He theorized that a person has three ways of arriving to our purpose in life:
- Creating or doing. We find purpose in being productive, not necessarily in the work we do, but rather as human beings.
- Experiencing something or encountering someone. We gain purpose when we realize that our life has an impact on the lives of other people, both positively and negatively.
- How we deal with suffering. If suffering is unavoidable then your mindset must adjust to the situation at hand and grow.
Viktor Frankl survived his concentration camp experience due to two decisive factors...
- Sheer luck. At any point during his incarceration, he could have been summarily executed by his captors, he could have fallen victim to a deadly disease, and/or he might have simply starved to death... but he didn’t.
- He found the will to survive by believing that his wife and family would need him after they were someday released. He didn’t know IF he would ever leave or IF his wife was still alive, but that feeling that he was still needed gave him hope and the will to continue another day.
Frankl understood that his captors had all of the physical power and they could end his life at any moment, but he wrote, "Everything can be taken from a man but one thing; the last of the human freedoms - to choose one’s attitude in any set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way." His captivity only reinforced his idea of free will.
Now jump forward 70 years with me to this past Sunday morning where I had the incredible opportunity to meet two aspiring young filmmakers, Julian Curi and Rocco Ambrosio.
Julian and Rocco are co-directors of a new feature film called "Shock Value".
The basic premise of Shock Value, as described to me, is the age old question, "Why are we here on earth and what is the meaning of life?"
The movie’s main character is Bonnie Munson, a young actress who arrives in Los Angeles desperate to make a difference... but what she finds is a world without humanity, morality, or a soul, a beautiful world painted in gray.
After some time, Bonnie finds her first acting job with a company whose mission it is to give its clients purpose by offering to bring them dangerously close to the moment of death through electric shock.
At first, Bonnie finds this assignment with the company stimulating, adding a sense of community, belonging and purpose to her life but soon after she becomes conflicted with the methodology employed by the company to find their clientele (operating a suicide prevention hotline, they prey upon individuals in their weakest state having forsaken all hope).
Bonnie finds herself quickly falling down the rabbit hole of despair and unhappiness.
With the ever growing feeling of emptiness, she now knows that she has allowed her environment and present condition to dictate the terms of her own happiness and knows that she must find a way to shock herself into a new consciousness or perish.
The young men sitting in front of me exude confidence in their ambitious project.
"This is not really the story of Bonnie but rather of Viktor Frankl", said Julian, "a man whose environment has become intolerable by anyone’s standards... yet he finds a way to be at peace knowing that he himself has the power to control his thoughts, emotions, and feelings."
Rocco piped in, "Viktor Frankl wrote ’When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves’"... this is the very essence of what we are hoping to capture in our film.
As I sat there sipping my coffee, I couldn’t help but think to myself that these two millennials are anything but the stereotypical 20-something ’slackers’ that the main-stream media wants to paint their entire generation. They both appear to be deep thinkers with a lot more questions than answers but with a great sense of understanding of human nature well beyond their years.
As I felt time growing short, I finally asked them the operative question of how I might be able to help them with their project.
The young men then quickly changed hats - from directors to producers - and alternated dialog in an almost choreographed performance, outlining the production schedule, individuals artists already committed to the project and the proposed budget.
They have estimated the total project budget to be $70,000, start to finish, including the submission fees to several renowned independent film festivals.
In order to raise the funds needed to complete production, they have turned to the crowd-funding platform, Kick-Starter.
As of this writing, they have raised about 20% of their goal, but with the understanding that it is not unusual and quite ordinary for the bulk of the funding to come during the last few days of the campaign.
I told them that I believed in their story and their entrepreneurial project. I pledged my support and told them that I would contribute my donation before the campaign concluded on November 1st.
Now, some people might look at this project as a waste of money and other resources, whereas I, on the other hand, think that this is a story that needs to be told...
This is the story of finding humanity in a sometimes cold cruel impersonal world... the story of our freedom to think and believe our own thoughts regardless of the situations that we find ourselves... the story that each one of us on earth has meaning, if not for ourselves, then for the others who share in our lives...
OptiFuse is proud to be a supporter of this film project and hope that you too feel the same about the project as we do... click here to find out more about the project and how you can help participate (and the rewards for doing so).
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