Man’s Search for Meaning
By Viktor Frankl
Most of the world’s most influential thinkers led cushy lives, and were able to glean their insights from a privileged vantage point – Socrates, Epicurus, the Buddha, Lao Tzu, Nietzsche, Marx, Darwin, Freud and so many others witnessed great suffering in the world and aimed to assuage it, yet they themselves led pretty comfortable lives. Of course, that’s because access to unthreatened free time is often crucial for intellectual labors.
Viktor Frankl, on the other hand, wasn’t as fortunate. His insights into the human condition were largely birthed in unimaginable horror while interred as a prisoner in the legendary Auschwitz concentration camp. That he survived and flourished inside and afterwards pays testament not only to his character but also the insights he developed to help cope with his agonizing and dehumanizing circumstances. One wonders how well Nietzsche or Marx would have coped in Frankl’s situation. Had they undergone similar privations, one wonders if their philosophies have been quite as idealistic.
If one had to put the philosophy of his book, Man’s Search for Meaning on a bumper sticker, it might be this: Life is what we make of it. Of course, this practical and profound book contains so much more than pat catchphrases like that. Frankl delves deeply, affectionately and sympathetically into the ways in which humans can adjust to their surroundings and adapt their minds in a way that allows them to flourish under nearly any condition, no matter how inhuman those conditions may appear to be.Related Links: