Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl, is an intense memoir, a powerful book, and a book that will give the reader much to ponder, on so many levels. I have just finished reading it for the fifth time. Yes, the fifth time. Each time I have read it, I have gained more than words can articulate, especially concerning religious issues and issues relating to overcoming traumatic circumstances. This book is a staple on my night table.
Frankl’s memoir is much more than a personal accounting of his experience during the Holocaust, when he was a prisoner in four Nazi concentration camps, including Auschwitz. The book is a tribute to the human mind, emotions and willpower to survive, and to find something positive in such a horrendous, horrific and adverse situation. Man’s Search for Meaning is an extremely inspirational book, blending Frankl’s own theory of Logotheraphy with spirituality and illumination.
Frankl made a choice while imprisoned, and he chose to find a tiny spark of illumination, a radiating and positive force that would keep him going through the darkness of the days. He found meaning, and therefore, the motivation to try to survive, even though he knew the odds were against him.
“A thought transfixed me: for the first time in my life I saw the truth as it is set into song by so many poets, proclaimed as the final wisdom by so many thinkers. The truth–that love is the ultimate and the highest goal to which man can aspire. Then I grasped the meaning of the greatest secret that human poetry and human thought and belief have to impart: The salvation of man is through love and in love. I understood how a man who has nothing left in this world may still know bliss, be it only for a brief moment, in the contemplation of his beloved. In a position of utter desolation, when a man cannot express himself in positive action, when his only achievement may consist in enduring his sufferings in the right way–an honorable way–in such a position man can, through loving contemplation of the image he carries of his beloved, achieve fulfillment. For the first time in my life, I was able to understand the words, “The angels are lost in perpetual contemplation of an infinite glory.”
He chose to find a spark of positive memory, and continued to think of those memories, memories which gave him hope and meaning. His meaning in life was love. Frankl’s love for his pregnant wife was his meaning which brought him significance in life, through the years spent in the Nazi concentration camps. He didn’t know whether she was alive or dead, but thoughts of her gave him something to live for. Unfortunately, when he was liberated, he found out that she was murdered by the Nazis, along with his parents and brother.
Frankl developed Logotherapy, a new theory on life’s meaning and survival. He realized, that in the words of Frederick Nietzsche, “He who has a why for life can put up with any how.” That euphemism is echoed several times throughout Man’s Search for Meaning. His “why” was his love for his wife. And, he was able to put up with all the “hows“, the atrocities he witnessed, and all of the horrors that plagued his days, because of his love for her.
Frankl gives a short synopsis of his Logotherapy theory in Man’s Search for Meaning. Being true to his ideals and true to his belief in his theory, Frankl used Logotherapy in his personal life. “Logotherapy focuses on the future.” According to Logotherapy, meaning can be discovered in three ways:
* “By creating a work or doing a deed
* By experiencing something or encountering someone
* By the attitude we take toward unavoidable suffering”
Viktor Frankl’s brilliance is not only in his masterful writing, but in his capacity to overcome the odds of despair and death, by surviving under circumstances that nobody can truly begin to understand. His words of wisdom and spirituality illuminate the pages of Man’s Search for Meaning. The reader can’t help but be influenced and inspired by his memoir, his experiences and his inner strength. He brings to the forefront, the essence of spiritual survival, within the riveting pages of Man’s Search for Meaning.
I personally own and have read this book. I highly recommend it as a personal library resource, and as a resource in all libraries, whether public or educational/institutional.
January 19, 2012 – 23 Tevet, 5772
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