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Man's Search For Meaning: The classic tribute to hope from the Holocaust (With New Material) Hardcover – Special Edition, 20 Jan 2011
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"An enduring work of survival literature" (New York Times)
"If you read but one book this year, Dr Frankl's book should be that one." (Los Angeles Times)
"His works are essential reading for those who seek to understand the human condition." (Chief Rabbi Dr Jonathan Sacks)
"A poignant testimony...a hymn to the phoenix rising in each of us who choose life before flight." (Brian Keenan, author of An Evil Cradling)
"One of the most remarkable books I have ever read. It changed my life" (Susan Jeffers, author of Feel the Fear And Do It Anyway and Embracing Uncertainty)
About the Author
Viktor Frankl was born in Vienna in 1905 and was Professor of Neurology and Psychiatry at the University of Vienna Medical School. His wife, father, mother and brother all died in Nazi concentration camps; only he and his sister survived, but he never lost the qualities of compassion, loyalty, undaunted spirit and thirst for life (earning his pilot's licence aged 67). He died in Vienna in 1997.
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Anyone who feels their life has no meaning or purpose, as our society has become increasingly Dickensian in the last 10 years, will find hope, as I did, to motivate myself to lead a fuller life, in spite of some of life's setbacks. I feel a winner, now, and am grateful for a special mentor who gave me her copy to learn wisdom.... I bought my own copy, as above to refer to it in times of stress. Other than that, it is a great read, which casts an objective eye on a period of history, some would rather forget.
His experience reminds you that human beings are capable of both the worst of imaginable crimes and the greatest displays of dignity. I'll revisit it a few times again over the course of my life, but sometimes skipping the last parts.
It’s not just a matter of enduring or retreating into an inner realm in which you’re free. In fact, it’s not really about the inner realm at all, because the way you find meaning is not within, but through a purpose in the world, something that’s outside you, something that is greater than you. It could be by creating something, and it could be — and very often is — connections to other human beings, whether it’s comrades, friends, family or the people you come up against in life. And if all else fails — as it tended to in the concentration camps — and all the usual sources of meaning fall apart, there is always the chance of finding a meaning in the suffering itself. This is something that’s very hard to talk about in the abstract, but that was the conclusion that he came to.
It’s interesting how optimistic Viktor Frankl’s philosophy is. Existentialism is often characterised as a rather morbid philosophy, dwelling on. That view of existentialism as “Life is terrible and we just have to resign ourselves to it” is a real misrepresentation. Sartre would have said, “No, we can change the circumstances of our lives.” He believed we could do it through revolution, through Marxism, through politics — and potentially through ethics as well, though that is something he never finished working out completely. With Viktor Frankl there’s a sense that we need this philosophy to help us to live. Existentialist philosophy doesn’t bring despair and angst into our lives, it gives us a way of making sense, it’s a way of discovering our own inner freedom. There’s a lot more that’s positive in existentialism than it’s ever given credit for, because it really is about how you live your life, and how you exist, given what you’re presented with. angst and anguish and the difficulty of making choices. It’s a nice foil to that caricature of existentialism. It avoids the pitfalls of Colin Wilson's evangelical approach.
But actually it’s a detached prose (insofar as a scientist who lives his unchosen experiment can write) which signifies the importance of finding meaning in life.
It’s like a really visual, visceral reminder that we can survive anything if we choose to. If we have our attitude reframed or we do it ourselves. If we see purpose or meaning in suffering, we cannot die.
Quite a profound read that gave rise to new thinkings and questionings in my head, and which I intend to follow for my own personal development and flourishing but also as a path to teach others.
Thank you, for going through it, sharing it, understanding it.
It won't take you long to read - it's quite thin. Just go do it.