Homesickness & Appreciation

Writing

Am I the only person who gained a newfound appreciation for my home country only once moving away from it?

I think the saying is true, we don’t really know how much we miss something until we no longer have it. And this point couldn’t have revealed itself to be more true than during my recent trip back to visit my parents in Northern Ireland.

I use to think that the little town I grew up in had nothing going for it. But actually it has quite the opposite, it holds my most cherished childhood memories, from my first day at primary school to the day I left for university, it was the place I was a child, the place where I was brought into this world. And I will always be thankful for that. Northern Ireland, in such a contrasting way to my parent’s experience due to The Troubles, gave me an overall safe childhood, filled with an eclectic range of memories, from my 12 year old self racing snails on makeshift race tracks I caught in the local park to my awkward yet endearing coming of age self throwing the bizarrest of shapes at school prom nights in cold Decembers.

I used to think I was from a quite a quiet place but with time my perception has changed, I’ve came from quite a peaceful place. That the smell of manure infiltrated my lungs making me wish I didn’t have a nose at some stages, yet now, I see it as a welcome home sign, a pleasant change from more polluted places.

To be clear, I’m not trying to say that I detest city life, if that were the case I wouldn’t be living in a city. Infact I like living in a city because it makes me appreciate the places I visit when I’m not in the city even more if that makes any sense!

Do you have an appreciation for your country of birth?

 

Book Review - Man's Search For Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl

Book Review – Man’s Search For Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl

Writing

Book Review – Man’s Search For Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl

Having read this book, I now understand why it has sold over 9 million copies. This tribute to hope against adversity should be testament to the human mind’s astonishing capabilities.

Unlike alot of wishy washy self-help books, Frankl’s psychological account provides reason in the most brutal and honest of ways. Re-telling his own harrowing experiences of live as a concentration camp prisoner, and the mechanisms he personally put into practice with his mind which ultimately spared him his mental freedom.

This book has left me stunned and in a state of reflection. If Frankl could remain hopeful in such dire circumstances then really what circumstances can any of us say we can’t survive through?

A truly exceptional read.

A selection of some of the most powerful quotes from the book:

pg 74 – “Is that theory true which would have us believe that man is no more than a product of many conditional and environmental factors – be they of a biological, psychological or sociological nature?”

“…..that man cannot escape the influences of his surroundings?”

“Does man have no choice of action in the face of such circumstances?”

In this section, Frankl questions whether man has a choice of action in any given situation. With specific reference to other prisoners, he questions whether man is, put simply,  a product of his own environment or if he can rise above the situation his environment has put him in – the concentration camp. With uncertainty over his freedom,  over his life, will the prisoner give in and ultimately give up? Or will he mentally make the choice of seeing the positive on even the bleakest of days. Will he use past memories and future hopes to will away his temptation to fade into a type non-existence in an attempt to escape the torturous reality of camp life?

Frankl answers his own question with the eloquent statement below:

Pg 75 – “And there were always choices to make. Every day, every hour, offered the opportunity to make a decision, a decision which determined whether you would or would not submit to those powers which threatened to rob you of your very self, your inner freedom; which determined whether or not you would become the plaything of circumstance, renouncing freedom and dignity to become molded into the form of the typical inmate.”

 Pg 84 – “Nietzche’s words “He who has a why to live for can bear with almost any how.”.”

Pg 51 – “Standing outside we saw sinister clouds glowing in the west and the whole sky alive with clouds of ever-changing shapes and colors, from steel blue to blood red. The desolate grey mud huts provided a sharp contrast, while the puddles on the muddy ground reflected the glowing sky. Then, after minutes of moving silence, one prisoner said to another, “How beautiful the world could be!”.”

When your environment comes to be what is only contained within the four fences of a concentration camp, positivity must be sought after in the most simplest of forms. Frankl remarks on how a newfound appreciation for nature would act as a crutch to the dying man. How the beauty of the sunrise and sunset would offer a temporary moment of escape to the prisoners of war.

Pg 85 – “We had to learn ourselves and, furthermore, we had to teach the despairing men, that it did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us.”

Viktor Frankl discusses openly of the frequent suicide attempts by fellow prisoners, he exclaims how camp rules made it strictly forbidden to help save a man attempting to end his own life, you could not for example cut him down. He states how those men who felt suicidal felt like they had nothing more to expect from life. Frankl’s response is that life is still expecting something from them. Perhaps not today but someday in future. Perhaps they will be a father or a husband. A future child or wife will need them.

 

Man’s search for meaning is by no means an easy read, as much as it made me think about methodologies and attitudes, it made me honestly feel deeply emotional at points, as I was so immersed in the experiences Frankl unfolded. Lessons learned from his work can be taken into many areas of our lives, this book, although focusing on the most brutal and evil parts of human history has managed in the process to give liberation to both Frankl and the reader. We have been given a chance to learn from Frankl’s horrific experiences, and so the question is, as one of the book’s main highlights – will we make that choice?

The Poetry of War

Writing

Below are two poems I have written which I may enter into an upcoming competition The competition challenges the writer to explore the concept of national identity, by responding to how it is portrayed in the works of WWII Poets.

I chose Timothy Corsellis’ poem – News Reel of Embarkation 

The antagonism between fighting for one’s country and fighting for one’s own life. You’re walking into battle without a care in the world, Corsellis relays the all too knowing realities of war, his wisdom – a bid to wipe the smiles off the young soldiers naive faces.

Timothy Corsellis’ poem questions how you can be so giddy heading off to war – pre-war feelings

My two poems in response to his, focus on post-war feelings – how you can be struck with trauma (post traumatic stress disorder), a loss of self-identity, a loss of home.

P(lay) T(oy) S(oldiers) D(addy)

I fought for my country,

I fought for my life.

I’m now at home in my country.

But I’m not at home in my mind.

 

I’m lost back out at battle,

I’m battling my inner demons everyday.

The war may be over to the outward eye,

Yet within me it never ends.

What is unfamiliar to you is home for me,

Hearing the tear of flesh,

As you wash your sheets.

Feeling the last breath of a friend on my cheek,

As your mouth feeds.

You can never see what I had to see.

All for a piece of metal, for a so-called identity.

 

The title itself reflects the innocence of a child, a child who looks up to their father for support and leadership, meanwhile the parent is suffering from PTSD – Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Hiding his pain from his child. From the world as best he can. 

 

VETERAN HOMELESSNESS

I HAVE A HOME,

IT’S 53 BELVEDERE RD,

IT HAS A BIG TREE OAK,

AND A BIG CHIMNEY THAT SMOKES.

 

MY CHILDREN, THEY PLAY IN THE GARDEN,

BEANEATH THE BIG OAK TREE,

MY WIFE, IS SUNBATHING EFFORTLESSLY,

AND IT IS THERE SHE WAITS FOR ME.

 

I DO ONEDAY, HOPE THAT I RETURN,

TO THE FAMILY I  LEFT BEHIND.

TO HAVE MET MY FATE AT THE END OF A BARREL,

MAY HAVE BEEN MY ONLY WAY TO FIND,

PEACE.

 

ATLEAST THAT WAS HOW I USE TO THINK,

WHEN I USE TO THINK AND FEEL.

NOW ALL I FEEL IS THE WET COLD GROUND,

AND THE CHALKY TASTE OF PILLS.

IT’S WEIRD HOW I FOUGHT FOR YOUR LIFE,

BUT YOU DON’T EVEN NOTICE MINE.

YOU WALK PASSED ME ON THE SIDE OF THE STREET.

MAYBE YOU JUST DON’T HAVE THE TIME.

 

So many of our veterans are suffering. The Mirror has reported that atleast 13,000 soldiers are left homeless after serving. Shouldn’t government funding go towards getting them off the street than on painting parks and leaf blowing?

The fact that the poem has no set rhythm between verses emphasises the disillusionment the war veteran is experiencing, lost flow reflects his sense of losing his family, his home and himself (his identity).

Poem order: normality – he had a home a sense of place, he went to war and lost himself, scarred by the trauma, on return he struggled to cope, he became a recluse, thought it better to end his life by overdose, but now doesn’t even have the effort for that. He is numb to any emotion. He sits on our street corners, we walk by not batting an eye for a man/woman who has in actual fact saved our lives. They’ve lost their identity, but haven’t we lost part of our own? Haven’t we as a society lost our morals?