I recently finished reading “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Victor Frankl. It’s not so much that I was searching for meaning (but thanks to everyone who joked about that), rather I was put onto the book by fellow adventure rider, Clayton, someone I never met in person but whose near real-time ride story I was reading on ADVrider.com¹ a few years ago.
Clayton expressed great respect for Frankl’s book in the face of extreme hardship resulting from that particular ride. I was moved by Clayton and curious to read Frankl. I wasn’t persuaded by Frankl’s conclusions but appreciated this poignant account of his imprisonment:
“We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”²
I thought about that. My last freedom is to choose my attitude …
What if that’s my only human freedom? My other freedoms, such as going left or right, are common to every organism. Nothing special there. But being able to face circumstances and alter the attitudes that drive the impulses that create my choices—that’s freedom where it matters. If I give that up, and allow whatever attitude presents itself, then I’m hardly bothering to be human at all.
Hard trails shouldn’t be mentioned in the same story as concentration camps. But even there, the ride today, were chances to choose an attitude, to be human. I’ve mentioned many things in these accounts that I enjoy about adventure riding but choosing to face something difficult knowing I’ll probably be challenged to choose an attitude along the way—that’s somewhere at the core of it.
¹ Adventure Rider, “Seattle to Argentina on a KLR 650”: www.advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=136505
² Frankl, Victor, Man’s Search for Meaning, pp. 65–66