June 20, 2008

Man’s Search For Meaning

Filed under: Book Reviews, Random — Robert John Ed @ 2:31 pm

I just finished Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search For Meaning. The book is very powerful. It is a nonfictional account of how Frankl lived and persevered during the Holocaust. He spent time in four concentration camps, including Auschwitz. The first 2/3rds of the book are a recollection and memory of his time and effort to stay alive in the camps. It’s harrowing to read and makes you ponder your ability to live similarly. At one point he and his comrades calculated the odds of actually staying alive; it was 1 in 28 that you would live.

We take so much for granted. And often we forget what we are as a race are capable of, both good and bad.

Lately, I’ve been reading much more about soft skills and working within a work place. How to conduct yourself and treat others is very important, but many of the books I’ve read like A Whole New Mind and Emotional Intelligence are leading me to do more intrinsic research. Basically, it seems that you must get to know yourself well in terms of temperament and disposition before attempting to alter it for the better. So I’m going to do some background research on psychology, jump a bit into sociology and possibly into a little philosophy before continuing to read on soft skills. Odd, the rivers ebb and flow, backward before moving forward.

Also, don’t you love how you can buy a book that was once $110 for $0.82 on Amazon? We are truly the first full informational generation. I can learn literally any subject today for next to nothing; whereas previous generations may have had access via libraries, but not nearly so comprehensive or in such an easily researched manner. The question is whether our generation embraces this and uses the ability.

Back to the book. Frankl does well here in his camp descriptions, but that is not the point of the book. The idea here is that despite any situation which we may have been placed, regardless of how atrocious the conditions, we may persevere and overcome our suffering. The key is finding meaning. Unfortunately for us, life is suffering. It is often equal parts good and bad, no one leads a charmed life. Yet understanding that our suffering can have a meaning and positive outcome is imperative to strive for a better future. Frankl goes on to describe a process called logotherapy, which is literally the will to meaning. For without meaning, all of our actions are nothing. I wonder how nihilists view this idea. Finding your specific meaning is imperative as well. Many already have a meaning, they may not be aware or think about that as a structured purpose for their existence, but it’s there. Be it your family, your work or your love, everyone needs meaning behind their lives. The lack thereof is what causes depression and problems thereafter. The book also addresses the question asking the meaning of life, and has a very good answer.

I can say that this book, amidst others, has given me a bit of a reaffirmation of my own meaning and what I strive for. That positive reinforcement may be valuable to yourself as well. If you’d like to borrow the book, please let me know. Otherwise it’s pretty inexpensive on Amazon.

There are many great quotes from the book, but I’ll end this with the most important:

“It did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us. We needed to stop asking about the meaning of life, and instead to think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life—daily and hourly. Our answer must consist, not in talk and meditation, but in right action and in right conduct. Life ultimately means taking the responsibility to find the right answer to its problems and to fulfill the tasks which it constantly sets for each individual.”


1 Comment »

  1. […] explicitly.  Building those new routes may prove far more valuable than leading through the old. Read this book.  It articulates well the proposition of what we go through and the perspectives we keep in […]

    Pingback by Opportunities & Problems « Redmarketer — October 1, 2008 @ 4:20 pm

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