Two Good NGO Interviews


, , , , , , , , , , ,

This fall we had some really good interviews on the show, and I’m proud of them because they took a while to set up and I’m glad they came to fruition. First we had Cynthia Parker, Senior Associate at the Interaction Institute for Social Change. The IISC does diversity training for other organizations and their teams in order to further their mission work. I was very happy to have her on the show and highlight their organization. To listen to the interview with Cynthia Parker, click here to download.  To learn more about the IISC, check out their website here.

Second was Elizabeth Grady-Harper, the Executive Director of the Boston Faith & Justice Network. Early in the show’s history, I interviewed a couple of people from the BFJN, a group that connects other Christian activists to other organizations. So it was a pleasure to interview the new BFJN Executive Director. To listen to the interview with Elizabeth Grady-Harper, click here to download. To learn more about the BFJN, check out their website here.


Damn the Intimidation


, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

There is something I wanted to say on my last broadcast talking about the upcoming election. I think I did but I wasn’t blatant enough. Basically this is it: DON’T give into fear. I’m sure I said something like that on Sunday, but it felt a little more like don’t give into cynicism, which is also very important and true but not what I needed to say. Not letting fear get us is essential now because all of the effort to scare people away from the polls, and scare all Americans, has gone into overdrive.

While there are pipe bombs and racist shooters coming from the right, the administration has put the onus of that violence on the media (nee the “Left”) and doubled down on on hatred of immigrants by deploying 15,000 troops to the southern border to “protect” us from a group of 7,000 asylum seekers that are headed towards the US yet are 1,000 miles. Trump has ordered the troops to treat any rock thrown by the “caravan” like a gun–thus firing upon mostly Spanish men, women, and children, whom he says are MS-13 murderers and ISIS members with smallpox, TB, and Ebola. Trump has also insinuated there would be “violence” if the Democrats won the midterms, stoking violence against people who don’t like/follow Trump’s agenda. All of this is to stoke his base and heighten the fear in everyone else.

My words to you: Damn the intimidation! Get out and vote!

For too long, fear and threats of violence have been used to suppress the vote–be it against Blacks, women, Latinos, or any other marginalized community. The way communities handled that fear was simple: stand up to the violence, fight the oppression, and demand the one true American right we have to vote. It is a right, not a privilege; and with the stakes as high as they are right now, you MUST use that right. If you think your vote doesn’t count, answer this: why do the GOP spend so much money, time, and effort gerrymandering districts, creating voter ID laws, and throwing obstacles in the way to keep you from voting?

My advice to all of you is this: ignore the vitriol and noise from the right. As Shakespeare wrote in Macbeth  “It is a tale told by an idiot, of sound and fury signifying nothing.” To stop this insanity, vote! To curb the idiocy, vote! To make yourself heard, vote! Do what you need to do: get out to the polls and vote on Tuesday!

Yes on 3 (Massachusetts) Rally and Radio Download


, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

On September– 50 days before election day– there was a rally at Copley Square to start the push for the Massachusetts Yes on 3 campaign. The focus is Question 3 on the election ballot; if passed, the result will take the laws for statewide Transgender right/protections off of the books. Yes on 3 is the campaign to keep Transgender rights as law where they should stay.

The photos below are from the rally. Election day is 5 days away and I have been remiss in not getting these up sooner, but if you care about human rights, learn more about Yes on 3 by going to their site Earlier in the month, I hosted a talk on the show with Taj Smith, Faith Organizing Director at Yes on 3, and Maya Shaffer, Director of Critical Mass News. To listen to the discussion, click here to download and listen to the show. Check it out and tell your friends in Massachusetts to vote, and vote Yes on 3.


Back on the Air


, , , , , , , , , , , ,

“Theology in Action” will air a new show tomorrow Sunday September 30, at 8:00 AM EST streaming live from the Activate Media website ( It’s our first new show in several months and the first day Activate Radio is back and running on the net! Please tune in at 8am EST on Sunday to hear us on again. Thanks!

Open Letter to the United States Senate


, , , , , , , , , , , , ,


I am writing you not just as a concerned citizen, but also as a concerned father of an almost 16 year old daughter. I shouldn’t admit I write out of desperation, but because of the choice you are charged to make will determine my daughter’s future—whether it be one of justice and cohesion or relegating her to second class citizenry. Soon the full Senate will be asked to vote whether Judge Brett Kavanaugh should or should not sit on the Supreme Court. If you see him fit to serve on the highest court in the land, my daughter will not have a future of hope and choice, but one of fear and instability. I say this not to stoke fear but to truly speak about the consequences of having Judge Kavanaugh on the bench.

Recently Judge Kavanaugh told Senators (most notably Sen. Susan Collins of Maine) during visits on the Hill that he considered Roe v Wade the settled law of the land. I believe he also said that under oath to the Senate Judiciary Committee. This testimony contradicts his actions evidenced in a declassified email, as well as the case of an immigrant teen seeking an abortion, and his own testimony under oath.

The emails by Judge Kavanaugh in 2003, then as a lawyer in the Bush II administration, said “I am not sure that all legal scholars refer to Roe as the settled law of the land at the Supreme Court level since Court can always overrule its precedent.” This directly contradicts his testimony to the Judiciary Committee, and gives a clear indication that he would be one of the justices to help overturn Roe. His current actions show this as well. As a Judge on the DC Circuit Court of Appeals, Judge Kavanaugh bent over backwards to deny an undocumented immigrant teen access to an abortion she wanted—and which was granted by a lower court’s ruling. If he is willing to violate the rights of an immigrant—partly because of his views on abortion and partly she’s a non-citizen—to what ends will he go against the US citizenry for his beliefs? Especially when he will be on the highest court that shapes the laws of our country?

The Supreme Court affects us all and their rulings have impact beyond a Justice’s tenure on the bench. The Dred Scott decision was considered to be the “worst decision ever rendered by the court” and it took the Civil War and a constitutional amendment to correct it. It can be argued that Plessy v. Ferguson (“separate but equal”) still harms us today despite Brown v. Board of Education 60 years later and the Civil Rights act of 1965 after that. And we are still suffering from the Citizens United case in 2010 which has allowed money to rule over the body politic, in effect poisoning it and us in the process. Bad case decisions by the court could take decades (even generations) to correct leaving untold numbers hurt in its wake. Many of these decisions start with an underappreciated appointment to the Supreme Court by the Senate.

The evidence shown by Senate testimony—past and present—shows that Judge Kavanaugh perjured himself, so much so that there is a movement to impeach him from his current judicial position on the Court of Appeals. The fact that the Judiciary Committee has been denied access to thousands of documents showing Judge Kavanaugh’s past interpretation of current law is serious cause for alarm, as well as a corruption of the nomination process. As such he does not deserve your vote of approval to sit on the Supreme Court.

I know I may sound as partisan as I warned about earlier; this is not lost on me. However that isn’t what motivated me to write. As I said it is out of wanting to protect my only daughter from what a bad decision from the US Senate may hold this forces me to communicate with you. I have tried to raise her to be kind to everyone no matter who they are, where they come from, or whom they love. I’ve always told her that the world isn’t fair, but it’s important to be fair to others. To see that girl potentially cast into a world where her country only cares for the millions of fetuses yet to be born and disdainful (at best) to half the population already born and cares even less for the truth is more than I can stand. She deserves far better; we as Americans all do.

The American government once stood for the rule of law; one party claims to be the party of law and order above all else. To appoint Brett Kavanaugh to the bench after flagrantly violating his oath to Congress and his office would continue the downward spiral of our government and be the final nail in the coffin for a once grand old party. Please prove that you are above the partisan rancor, prove that you will protect the most vulnerable people in our country, and please stand up for the rule of law by rejecting Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court. An already injured nation is counting on you to do the right thing.


David Concepcion

Show Updates


, , , , , ,

I know I haven’t been on the air with an original show since February (I think), and I apologize for that. I was hoping to do a couple shows to signify a hiatus, but that never happened. My move to a new apartment took over my life and then the show (if you want more details of that ordeal, click here). Still the move needed to ended, yet no new shows. I kept saying to myself I wanted to do a show explaining the whole move and use it to talk about other societal issues that it touched upon, but it never happened. I was even debating whether or not to restart the show again; just leave it as whatever the legacy was back in February. However something happened that stopped that idea in its tracks: Activate Media went down.

For a time, the company that hosts Activate Media stream and shows were accidentally double billing for their services. When it was first brought to their attention, they corrected the problem. But the double billing started again and now our site is down until Activate Media pays the amount due (which we don’t owe). So the only way for us to fix this is to rebuild the out library and start over again. Activate Media hopes to be streaming again sometime in October.

For a minute, I thought this was an easy out. I could stop making shows and move on with my life. However it turns out to be a blessing. This down time to rebuild is an opportunity to catch up on the show. I took a hiatus last year to refocus the the show from becoming a topical news show with a religious base, to a longer ethical view of society at large. While some of that worked, it was also easy for me to backslide and try to keep up with the news of the day (this administration almost makes it a necessity). Then I felt like I was falling behind and had no way to catch up. With having to rebuild the network, I’m in the same boat as everyone else, which means I can catch up again. It also gives me a chance to update the blog. I know I have readers from around the world wondering where I am; I should probably tell them, if I haven’t lost any.

I still need help getting the show together (asking for a co-producer or an intern didn’t bear any fruit) and I have my own organizational issues to deal with (hard to research shows with anxiety attacks in the way). But at least now I get a chance to help our parent group rebuild and make up for lost time.

Fourth of July


, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

With all that has happened in the last few months, this 4th of July doesn’t seem to be a time of celebration. It’s not exactly a time for mourning, but it is close. That which we thought was the promise of America has disappeared in the worst bait-and-switch act ever in our history. The oligarchy we were becoming has morphed into the fascism we once fought against; worse yet, a large part of the population have embraced it, and to the rest it is becoming normal. It is not a birthday worth the candles.

However there are strange glimpses of hope. When conspiracy radio talk host Alex Jones said the liberals will be launching a second Civil War today, people took to Twitter in the best satirical fashion to create notes from the front as “Second Civil War Letters” (I urge you to search #secondcivilwarletters on Twitter and laugh your ass off; I also created my own letter on another blog here). I also took to reading Frederick Douglass’ speech “What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July.” Written 166 years ago, it is amazingly prescient today and can help to inspire most of us. If we can come out of those darkest times, we can again.

For today’s 4th of July, I present you with one of America’s greatest treasures with one of America’s great speeches: James Earl Jones reading excerpts from Douglass’ “What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July.” This was presented as part of Howard Zinn’s “The People’s History of the United States.”



The speech itself is worth reading in its entirety, and you can here.

March for Our Lives 2018


, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

On April 24 of this year, cities across the US held sister marches with the March for Our Lives rally organized by the student survivors of the Parkland High School shooting in Florida. Millions across the country marched against the NRA and gun violence, an estimated 800,000 alone in Washington DC. I marched in Boston where I could not tell you the exact numbers. I will say it had the same kind of energy as the counterprotest to the “Free Speech” rally last summer.  As usual my daughter was with me taking photos. Our collection on the web is late but timely: there was another school shooting earlier this week in Santa Fe, TX that left 10 dead and 10 others wounded.  There seems to be no shortage of mass shootings in this country which is why we marched in April, and we will probably have to march a lot more before sensible gun laws can be enacted and enforced as a nationwide standard. Here are the photos from April’s march:

Interview with Monica Cannon-Grant


, , , , , , , , ,

For those who missed our show on February 11, 20018, it was an amazing interview with Monica Cannon-Grant, Boston activist and founder of Violence in Boston, which serves to improve the quality of life & life outcomes of individuals from disenfranchised communities by reducing the prevalence of violence and the impact of associated trauma. Great to listen and learn.

Click here to listen to the show.

Perseverance and the Search for Meaning


, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

On Feb. 4, I gave this sermon at the UU Church of Medford, MA, based on the book “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Viktor Frankl. This was to begin the month’s sermon topic of “Perseverance.” I started with an excerpt from the 1992 Introduction to the book.

“The reader may ask me why I did not try to escape what was in store for me after Hitler had occupied Austria. Let me answer by recalling the following story. Shortly before the United States entered World War II, I received an invitation to come to the American Consulate in Vienna to pick up my immigration visa. My old parents were overjoyed because they expected that I would soon be allowed to leave Austria. I suddenly hesitated, however. The question beset me: could I really afford to leave my parents alone to face their fate, to be sent, sooner or later, to a concentration camp, or even to a so-called extermination camp? Where did my responsibility lie? Should I foster my brain child, logotherapy, by emigrating to fertile soil where I could write my books? Or should I concentrate on my duties as a real child, the child of my parents who had to do whatever he could to protect them? I pondered the problem this way and that but could not arrive at a solution; this was the type of dilemma that made one wish for “a hint from Heaven,” as the phrase goes.

“It was then that I noticed a piece of marble lying on a table at home. When I asked my father about it, he explained that he had found it on the site where the National Socialists had burned down the largest Viennese synagogue. He had taken the piece home because it was a part of the tablets on which the Ten Commandments were inscribed. One gilded Hebrew letter was engraved on the piece; my father explained that this letter stood for one of the Commandments. Eagerly I asked, “Which one is it?” He answered, “Honor thy father and thy mother that thy days may be long upon the land.” At that moment I decided to stay with my father and my mother upon the land, and to let the American visa lapse.”– Vienna, 1992

Originally I was asked in October to give a sermon this past November. There were two problems with that: one is that I find myself these days writing at a much slower pace than I used to, so I needed much more time than I was allowed for a deadline; second is that the Soul Matters theme for that month was Abundance—there was no way I could do a service on abundance in any form. I shouldn’t say any form, because I could have given the shortest sermon in history: ask “what does it mean to live a life of abundance?” answer “I have no clue,” and go right to the closing circle. However, I felt that would leave many unsatisfied, so that idea was scrubbed. So I offered to do a sermon during February when the theme was perseverance, which gave me more time and I knew I could go in a number of directions. Now when I made that decision, I was given a late-February Sunday, which was fine. As it turns out there were some small schedule conflicts that Rev. Marta had to resolve, so she asked me if I could do this date in February. I agreed and things were fine. However it was later that I realized that this would be the first Sunday in February, which leads off the new theme for the month. It’s one thing to give a sermon that ties into the themes of the month; it’s another to set the tone for the themes of sermons for the month. That I wasn’t prepared for. As much as I like the spotlight, I’m much more a supporting player who likes to steal the light for a while rather than the lead who has the light always shining on them. It’s a bigger task to try and define the themes while leaving room for others to expand on them, rather than being one who helps push out at the edges. But this is the hand I am dealt, so let’s start with the basics.

What is perseverance? It is defined as steadfastness in doing or achieving something despite the difficulty, obstacles, and/or delay in the goal’s success. It is more than simple persistence and determination, but it helps to have both. In this case it is facing a goal that is hard to reach to begin with, has impediments in the way—all the way—through getting to the goal, yet still moving towards a conclusion nevertheless. In many ways, it doesn’t just require a leap of faith to get to the end, the journey is a leap of faith in itself.

While it may not always seem like it, there are examples of people living lives of perseverance now and in history. For a few weeks I went back and forth trying to decide which would be the best example to use. I could talk about the current situation of Puerto Rico post Hurricane Maria and how one third of the population are dealing with little or no power and assistance. Or I could talk about the Black Lives Matter movement as another manifestation of liberation theology from abolition to the Civil Right movement. I thought about speaking of my own personal goals and struggles over the last decade, as personal testimony is important to our faith. I also thought I could talk of Albert Camus’ “Myth of Sisyphus” as the existential parable to such a life within all the absurdities that abound. These and more are fine examples of persistence despite obstacles, against the odds—and some I may yet address in talks in the future. But I eventually settled on an item that I found early in my college life and feel is a clear and concise example on perseverance: the experience in the Nazi concentration camps as experienced by Dr. Viktor Frankl which he chronicled in his book “Man’s Search for Meaning.” It is historical, resonant, and powerful on its own right, gives a fascinating look into the minds of those who were held and survived the camps, and considering last week’s sermon about the power of laughter, what better way to bookend that service than with existentialism and the Holocaust.

Viktor Frankl was born in Vienna in 1905 to Jewish civil servants. He showed an early interest in medicine, wanting to be a doctor at the age of three. In his teens he sparked an interest in philosophy, experimental psychiatry, and psychoanalysis, going so far as to corresponding with Sigmund Freud. It was Freud who helped get one of Frankl’s first article published in the International Journal of Psychoanalysis at the age of 16. Frankl slowly realized he had an aptitude for not only diagnosing psychological problems of patients, but to understand what motivates people. In 1928, while still a medical student at the University of Vienna, he started a special program to have him and other psychiatrists counsel troubled high school students. This led to a position at the University Clinic in Vienna after graduation. From 1930 to 1937, he oversaw patients at the “suicide pavilion,” caring for over 3,000 people with suicidal tendencies. His efforts were to help patients make their lives meaningful in the face of depression. This would take extreme symbolism not too much later.

With the Nazi takeover of Austria, Frankl was forbidden from working on any “Aryan” patients because he was Jewish. With his reputation, he was able to become the head of the department of neurology at Rothschild Hospital, the only hospital in Vienna where Jews were allowed admission. This provided him a little protection in the face of ongoing danger and threat of deportation. When the hospital was to be closed, the dangers was realized. In September of 1942, Frankl, his wife, and parents, were arrested and deported to the Thereseinstadt Ghetto, a concentration camp in occupied Czechoslovakia. He would eventually be moved to three other camps—Auschwitz-Birkenau, Kaufering, and Turkheim, which was part of the Dachau complex—before the camps were liberated.

Soon after liberation, Frankl’s short memoir “Experiences in a Concentration Camp,” eventually formed the first portion of his book “Man’s Search for Meaning.” At almost 100 pages, it is a very fast, but nonetheless potent, read of what went on in the camps.  It is one of those books that you can open to literally any page and find a topic worthy of a sermon. While he gave his own experiences at the camps, some description of events were left out, for as he writes “Many accounts have been written about this horror.” In some ways his approach to the events at the camps are from a clinical point of view; he tries to give people a view into the psychology of a concentration camp prisoner. And while part of his purpose is breaking down the three distinct phases of an “inmate’s mental reaction to camp life”—the entry to the camp, the day to day survival, and the points after liberation—this is still the account of concentration camp prisoner Number 119104. As such, much of what happened to him was subject to the whims of officers, Capos, and, to some extent, fate. Frankl describes the almost perfect convergence of all three on the night he was sent to Auschwitz. Men and women were separated into groups, and they had to file past a senior SS officer whom he said “assumed an attitude of careless ease” as he looked over each person, and simply pointed left or right with his finger. He had no idea what this meant, but after a brief inspection Frankl was pointed to the right. Later that evening, he picks up the story:

“I inquired from prisoners who had been there for some time where my colleague and friend had been sent.

“’Was he sent to the left side?’

“’Yes,’ I replied.

“’The you can see him there,’ I was told.

“’Where?’ A hand pointed to the chimney a few hundred yards off, which was sending a column of flame up into the grey sky of Poland. It dissolved into a sinister cloud of smoke.

“’That is where your friend is, floating up to Heaven,’ was the answer.”

It was little games like this, and worse, that the SS and Capos played that often reminded him of the story “Death in Tehran.” With all that—the shock and disgust of imprisonment, then the apathy and forced to live an abnormal routine as if normal—how does one not succumb to the extremity of the concentration camp? This however was Frankl’s gift as he had shown earlier in his career.

When Frankl counseled suicidal patients, he helped them to figure out how to find and hold on to hope. To do this, he had to help each person find their own meaning to life and reconnect with it. This in turn gave them the strength to keep going. His theories contradicted a popular school of psychological thought of the time: Sigmund Freud’s pleasure principle. Freud held that man’s primary drive is seeking pleasure and all other motivations are “secondary rationalizations of instinctive drives.” Frankl flipped this concept on its head. He posited that man’s primary drive is a search for meaning in one’s life, which he called the “will to meaning.” This falls in line with the philosophy of existentialism, in that the there is no real meaning in the world except for that which we make of it. While this concept is taken to mean that things happen as they happen—there is no good or evil, just the amorality of nature and therefore suffering is a kind of absurdity as well as a fact of life—Frankl takes it to a different point: that our suffering comes from being disconnected from what meaning life has for us, and man’s real purpose is find that meaning for each person and to work towards making life meaningful. This was his therapeutic technique called Logotherapy. Logo is from the Greek word logos which is “meaning.” In other words, in finding one’s own meaning of life, you find reason to persevere.

So what was Frankl’s own meaning that kept him alive through four concentration camps? Oddly enough it was this theory of logotherapy. When he was detained by the SS, he had a nearly completed manuscript detailing his theories and approaches. This work detailed his analysis of his own work and findings, his theories and new psychological approach, and would eventually form the book The Doctor and the Soul: From Psychotherapy to Logotherapy. It was nearly 300 pages of his life’s work up to that time, as it was seized by camp guards after entering the camps and destroyed. That might have been the end of it had he not felt this to be his own important gift to humanity. He felt so strongly in this that over the next few years, while still in the various camps, he worked to rewrite the manuscript scrawling notes on whatever he could get his hands on. He even claims this burning desire to bring this book to realization is what kept him from succumbing to typhus like so many others. It also got him through some of the day to day hardships in the camps. One particular day after being forced to hike to a work site in the freezing winds with sore legs and feet, lamenting this day and what lay ahead, he had the image of himself standing on a podium in front of an audience lecturing on psychology and philosophy; this helped him at that moment in his depths by rising above the current circumstances and even viewing himself having survived them in the past. This was also a part of his theory: it focuses on the future, or as he puts it “on the meanings to be fulfilled by the patient in his/her future.” His own work and work as a camp doctor helped him survive the horrors of the Holocaust.

So what can we take from his teachings and experiences? How can he teach us to live a life of perseverance? First and foremost, we must realize that while life is random, rough, sometimes tortuous, it has multiple chances to learn more about it and ourselves. We are creatures that search for meaning in life and it seems that we can create that meaning for our lives as well. Frankl says “this meaning is unique and specific in that must and can be fulfilled by him alone; only then does it achieve a significance which will satisfy his own will to meaning.” Is it the creation of a work of art, or the writing of a great novel? Is it the work one does in life, or helping to raise the life they have created? Any of these can fulfill that meaning to life and keep us as individuals moving forwards. Again as Frankl said, “In a word, each man/woman is questioned by life; they can only answer to life by answering for their own life; to their life they can only respond by being responsible.”

It is also important to know that these desires to achieve can be frustrated. There are always obstacles in the way and each can provide moments of doubt. This is to be expected and in some ways appreciated. One of the ways logotherapy differs from most psychological methods is how it views mental health. Most modes of psychoanalysis trends towards finding homeostasis, or a tensionless mental state; logotherapy acknowledges that a certain degree of tension is needed for mental health, in this case the tension between what a person has already achieved and what they have yet to achieve. Think of a bow and arrow. When a bow has no tension placed upon it, the arrow remains stationary, it may even fall off. To send the arrow flying to an intended target, you must put tension on the string to propel the arrow. That positive tension is what is needed to push you where you need to go. As Frankl says “what man actually needs is not a tensionless state but rather the striving and struggling for a worthwhile goal, a freely chosen task.”

This meaning we seek is very individual, very specific at any given moment. What gave us meaning as children may not be the same thing that gives us meaning now. It can change and we have to recognize when such a time happens. It doesn’t mean that what we believed was wrong, but that that what we believed then no longer applies now. If we are beings that strive for meaning, we need new goals to achieve as we go.

I find this very helpful in that the past is not something gone and forgotten, but something that can be built upon. In the camps, Frankl was being marched out in the cold and wind to one of their work details. The prisoner next to him said “If our wives could see us now. I do hope they are better off in their camps and don’t know what is happening to us.” At that point Frankl had no idea whether his wife was dead or alive, but that statement brought her image to his mind. Through the march and the detail of the day, he held her image in his mind, even having imaginary conversations with her. It got him through that time, but it also taught him that none of what happened in the camp can take away the love he knew with his wife whether she be alive or not (His wife did in fact die in the Bergen-Belsen camp). On a higher level, he said that at that moment he realized that “the salvation of man is through love and in love.”

While he even admits the prisoners not long for the earth would spend their last days lying in bed often lost in thoughts or memories as that was one of the few escapes from the horrors there, the memories of love can help build one’s inner life to use as a buffer against that which is assailing them. How you look back on past achievements can help understand a person’s state of mind. Think of people who look on their accomplishments as the best they ever could do and tend to live in the past, compared to those who see their deeds and use them to build on and go on to further triumphs (sometimes in different realms). If we have a goal to reach or a meaning to achieve, each milestone in our life is a stepping stone to the next achievement along the path. The past is helpful to know what you are capable of, but the key to hope, stability and perseverance is moving forward.

One of the best lessons I learned from Frankl’s writing and theory is his use of humor. He often uses it as a counter to the neurosis that a patient might currently be suffering from. He called this “paradoxical intent.” For example, when faced with a severe case of writer’s cramp that jeopardized a man’s job, a doctor told him instead of trying to write neat and legibly to try and write in the worst possible scrawl and show everyone how exemplary his scribbling ability was. When the man tried to scrawl, he couldn’t and was freed from his writer’s cramp within 48 hours. I personally had a moment of clarity with this technique many years ago. I was living in a low-income SRO in Everett that didn’t allow visitors to stay overnight, so Sophia could no longer stay with me on weekends. Money was growing tighter, prospects became dimmer, and there was the threat of eviction on my head. I was so very far down that thoughts of suicide were growing. I was on the phone with the Samaritan’s talking to them about my problems. I will point out that I was talking to the Samaritans because the Suicide Hotline told me to call them, and the Suicide Hotline told me to call them because I wasn’t actually partway through my suicide plan for them to get involved. You have no idea what it is like to call the Suicide Hotline and have them tell you “we can’t talk right now.” While on the phone with the Samaritans, the volunteer asked me if I had been reading anything lately. Without missing a beat, I answered him earnestly and honestly, “Lately I’ve been reading Hamlet, which is probably not the best choice considering my current state of mind.” The volunteer said that shows I’m in a better state of mind, and I was able to get off the phone with him not a few minutes later. Without trying, I used the paradoxical intent in its proper form, and it kept those suicidal thoughts at bay for a while.

I highly recommend reading his “Man’s Search for Meaning,” which the publishing arm of the UUA, Beacon Press, now offers in stores and online. Dr. Frankl’s theories helped get him through the Holocaust and they have been helping many of his patients and readers for decades since. Through practice and personal experience, he soundly proved Nietzsche’s statement that “he who has a why to live can bear almost any how.” While he agreed with the existentialists in that suffering can have meaning, in no way did he mean that suffering was necessary to find meaning. He was dedicated to helping people discover what their meaning in life was so they can persevere as he had to. As he himself put it, “as a professor in two fields, neurology and psychiatry, I am fully aware of the extent to which man is subject to biological, psychological, and sociological conditions. But in addition to being a professor in two fields, I am a survivor of four camps—concentration camps that is—and as such I can also bear witness to the unexpected extent to which man is capable of defying and braving even the worst conditions conceivable.” In other words, to persevere is to have a reason to keep moving forward.

Blessed be.