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April 2020

What do kilobytes, megabytes, gigabytes, and mosquito bites have in common? All are part of our memories. The first three are mechanical, as in computers. A byte is a unit of computer storage—memory. A souped-up personal computer can store up to 128 gigabytes, over 128 trillion bytes of memory.

But that’s nothing compared to our brains, where memories of those itchy mosquito bites are stored. The brain has about 90 billion nerve cells that together make trillions of connections. Computer guys needed 82,000 processors hooked into one of the world’s fastest supercomputers to mimic only one second of normal brain activity! It’s now believed that a brain can store one petabyte of information. It’s as much as all the information on the worldwide Internet.

It’s safe to say we store an incredible number of memories. Some we’d just as soon forget—like those seemingly million mosquito bites. Some things we are wise to forget. But some things, as bad as they were, we need to remember. That was so for Viktor Frankl, who recounted his memories in his 1959 book, Man’s Search for Meaning. Frankl was an Austrian Jewish neurologist and psychiatrist, who in 1944 was transported with his family to the Auschwitz death camp in Poland, and later to other camps. After the war, he wrote about what he learned from his experiences.

Frankl observed in inmates different psychological experiences based on the length of time they spent in the camps. The incoming could not appreciate how bad their captivity would be. They learned. The SS put them into two lines. Those on the left were immediately sent to gas chambers. Those who could work were sent to showers; there they were beaten. Guards took everything they owned. Their bodies were entirely shaved; they were tattooed with numbers. “All we possessed, literally, was our naked existence.”   Up to 1,500 prisoners were stuffed into huts built for 200. Nine men would sleep on hard planks misnamed a bed. Many prisoners began to think that the gas chambers would provide welcome relief.

As their agonies continued, apathy set in. Starvation had depleted body and mind. Their lives wasting away, inmates lost all sense of horror and disgust over what was happening to others. The prisoners’ defense mechanisms centered all emotions on self-preservation. Inmates scavenged corpses desperately hoping to find anything, if only a string for their worn-out shoes, to help them survive. Frankl saw a man cry like a baby at his lack of shoes in the bitterly cold winter while another sat nearby, contentedly eating a crust of bread. Frankl described himself as watching non-phased, eating his own meager rations, while almost-dead prisoners bounced dead bodies down steps, to be piled and later burned.

But through these horrors Frankl realized a saving truth: whoever knows the “why” to live can bear almost any “how” he lives. One evening, as 2,500 men were starved for not fingering a potato thief, Frankl talked about their greatest need: meaning. Prisoners died from the loss of hope caused by a lack of meaning. He told them that they needed to hold onto their memories, good and bad alike, to keep them going. They should not let the senselessness of their struggles detract from life’s dignity and meaning. Instead, they should offer their suffering that others might be spared. And if they did not survive, they would know that the “Someone” watching them would be pleased with their sacrifices. When Frankl was done, tearful inmates limped to him in thanks for his words. He had given them meaning.

What Frankl saw in his camp is what we see in our culture: the loss of meaning. We do not search for meaning in our lives. We’ve stopped, or perhaps never even started. We live without real purpose, dabbling in the superficial, seeking the trendy places, the latest gismos, the power, fame, and money.   But even when we find it, we just more find emptiness—nothing of lasting value. Committed only to self and never seeing the needs of others around us, we become like ravenous wolves or lost lambs. Like predators or prey.

It describes our abortion culture, one based solely on self. It extols a wrong-headed notion of freedom, which without any sense of responsibility has become its own horror show.   Like the camp prisoners, the unborn have been stripped of humanity. All too often our culture treats the unborn as nothing more than unwelcome intrusions. Refusing to recognize that their lives can have meaning, our culture instead heaps them in buckets from where they end up in sewers, garbage dumps, and incinerators nationwide.

And we have sold out women. Our culture encourages them to surrender the gift uniquely theirs by birth: the gift of carrying human life. Rather than helping women to find the strength and courage needed to give meaning to their children’s lives—and deeper meaning to their own—we stoke their fears. Our culture even tells women to celebrate their abortion, as if a mother’s killing her own child is a moment of pride. Women caught in this trap must often fend for themselves. Left without hope, despair crushes them.

It comes down to us—the liberated. We, too, are abortion survivors; but for the grace of God, it could have been us. So we have our own choices to make. We can live in apathy to the needs of mother and child. Or we can be their liberators. We can take as our model the One sent by His Father to save us. By His suffering and death, Christ taught us the meaning of Love, and so the meaning of life. He calls us to sacrifice ourselves, to give meaning to our lives by helping other find meaning in theirs. In everyday ways—thoughts, words, prayers, and actions—we can resurrect to real life the memory of a once pro-life nation.

Easter-time looks to be corona-different this year. But we continue to celebrate the same resurrected Christ Who has given our lives meaning. We have work to do.


Paul V. Esposito is a Catholic lawyer who writes on a variety of pro-life topics. He and his wife Kathy live in Elmhurst, Illinois and have six children.

© Paul V. Esposito 2020. Culture of Life. Permission to copy and distribute for pro-life purposes is granted. Visit us at and on Facebook.

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