Saturday, March 19, 2011

Man's Search For Meaning

"Frankl was once asked to express in one sentence the meaning of his own life. He wrote the response on paper and asked his students to guess what he had written. After some moments of quiet reflection, a student surprised Frankl by saying, "The meaning of your life is to help others find the meaning of theirs." "That was it, exactly,"Frankl said. "Those are the very words I had written." - William J. Winslade

Man's Search For Meaning is just that...Viktor Frankl's (a concentration camp survivor) book about helping others find meaning to their lives. I thought that it was a very inspirational book about how to find meaning and optimism through pain, death, and suffering. The first half of the book is about Frankl's experiences in a concentration camp and how he and others around him found meaning and even happiness in their lives despite having everything taken away from them, starvation, sickness, miserable conditions, hard physical labor, and being tortured and mistreated.

The second half of the book gave me flashbacks to my college psychology classes. I felt like I was reading a text book...and just like I did in college, I skimmed over it.

Here are some passages that really touched me:
"We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms--to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way."

"Dostoevski said once, "There is only one thing that I dread: not to be worthy of my sufferings." These words frequently came to my mind after I became acquainted with those martyrs whose behavior in camp, whose suffering and death, bore witness to the fact that the last inner freedom cannot be lost. It can be said that they were worthy of their sufferings; the way they bore their suffering was a genuine inner achievement. It is this spiritual freedom--which cannot be taken away--that makes life meaningful and purposeful."

"He who has a why to live for can bear with almost any how. Whenever there was an opportunity for it, one had to give them a why-an aim-for their lives, in order to strengthen them to bear the terrible how of their existence. Woe to him who saw no more sense in his life, no aim, no purpose, and therefore no point in carrying on. He was soon lost."
Even though we are not imprisoned in a concentration camp, sometimes life can get a little dicey. Are we baring our suffering with a genuine inner achievement? Are we choosing a good attitude in any given circumstance? Do we have a why, an aim, and a purpose to live for?  If so, we can find meaning and happiness no matter what!