Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl
Finished: August 27th, 2017. Rating: 10/10
If war is Hell, World War II is the deepest, darkest pit within. And in this pit laid Viktor Frankl. He survived 4 concentration camps, including the infamous Auschwitz, which alone is responsible for an estimated 1.1 million deaths, more than the United State and United Kingdom’s World War II casualties combined.
But though Frankl paints a vivid self-portrait of his experience of the horrors of the Holocaust, the focus of Man’s Search for Meaning is not about how the dead died; it’s about how the survivors lived.
We, the outsiders, will never understand the cruelty and torment of the death camps. However, what we can understand and what Frankl offers is a look at how the survivors outlasted hell and thus how we too can outlast our own.
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When life—or anything—gets hard, remember this: “. . . someone looks down on each of us in difficult hours—a friend, a wife, somebody alive or dead, a God—and he would not expect us to disappoint him. He would hope to find us suffering proudly—not miserably—knowing how to die.”
When you direct your perceptions correctly, you can outlast anything: “. . . man’s inner strength may raise him above his outward fate.”
Great adversity leads to great achievements: “If there is a meaning in life at all, then there must be a meaning in suffering. Suffering is an eradicable part of life, even as fate and death. . . . The way in which a man accepts his fate and all the suffering it entails, the way in which he takes up his cross, gives him ample opportunity—even under the most difficult circumstances—to add a deeper meaning to his life. It may remain brave, dignified, and unselfish. Or in the bitter fight for self-preservation he may forget his human dignity and become no more than an animal. Here lies the chance for a man either to make use of or to forgo the opportunities of attaining the moral values that a difficult situation may afford him.”
These are merely a few of the passages and lessons I took from Man’s Search for Meaning. If you like these passages, you will love the book. As Harold S. Kushner said in the foreword of Man’s Search for Meaning, “Typically, if a book has one passage, one idea with the power to change a person’s life, that alone justifies reading it, rereading it, and finding room for it on one’s shelves. This book has several such passages.”