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Between stimulus and response there is a space,” wrote psychiatrist and neurologist Viktor Frankl in his unforgettable memoir of his life in a Nazi death camp, Man’s Search for Meaning. “In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”

In this Spring 2017 issue of Parabola, Frankl’s grandson Alexander Vesely explains how the Holocaust survivor found meaning in acts of generosity, describing how Frankl once bought a radio for a stranger because he heard the man say he couldn’t afford to buy one, telling young Vesely: “Do I need the extra fifty bucks or would it be more meaningful if this man had those fifty bucks?” In myriad ways, we explore how loss—through death or theft or failure or the poverty that can come with being a dedicated artist or spiritual seeker—can open us to the richness of meaning. As Carl Jung discovered in his exploration of the I Ching, detailed here in a essay by analyst Annette Lowe, meaning is opening to relationships beyond causality, to truths that call us from unknown depths.

The great paradox known by ancient and Aboriginal peoples invoked in this issue is that this sense of existing in the vast space of the cosmos can be known in the depths of the human heart.  “Put the mind in the heart,” writes Cynthia Bourgeault here, drawing from the Philokalia, a revered spiritual collection from the Christian East. The ancient ones of the East and the West knew, as the Aboriginal ones still know, that the heart is an organ of subtle perception, intuition, and feeling.

Few knew the oneness of the heart as well as long-time Parabola contributor Huston Smith, who died as this issue was created. “Whether we realize it or not, simply to be human is to long for release from mundane existence,” wrote Huston. We at Parabola mourn his passing. May this issue help release you from the ordinary workings of stimulus and response, making space for meaning.

—Tracy Cochran

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VOL. 42:1 The Search for Meaning
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