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Man's Search for Meaning Paperback – June 1, 2006
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One of the great books of our time. —Harold S. Kushner, author of When Bad Things Happen to Good People
"One of the outstanding contributions to psychological thought in the last fifty years."—Carl R. Rogers (1959)
"An enduring work of survival literature." —New York Times
"An accessible edition of the enduring classic. The spiritual account of the Holocaust and the description of logotherapy meets generations' need for hope."—Donna O. Dziedzic (PLA) AAUP Best of the Best Program
About the Author
Viktor E. Frankl was professor of neurology and psychiatry at the University of Vienna Medical School until his death in 1997. His twenty-nine books have been translated into twenty-one languages. During World War II, he spent three years in Auschwitz, Dachau, and other concentration camps.
Harold S. Kushner is rabbi emeritus at Temple Israel in Natick, Massachusetts, and the author of bestselling books including When Bad Things Happen to Good People, Living a Life That Matters, and When All You’ve Ever Wanted Isn’t Enough.
William J. Winslade is a philosopher, lawyer, and psychoanalyst who teaches psychiatry, medical ethics, and medical jurisprudence at the University of Texas Medical School in Galveston.
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"We who lived in the 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."
While author had the core idea of the book (logotherapy) even before he was sent to Auschwitz concentration camp, his experiences at the camp and those of fellow inmates helped in existential validation of Logotherapy, and today have made it more understandable and relatable for the readers. Logotherapy has its roots in “logos”. Logos is a Greek work that denotes “meaning”. Logotherapy focuses on the meaning of human existence as well as on man’s search for such a meaning. As per Logotherapy, striving to find a meaning is the primary motivational force in a man, and is what keeps man’s desire to live alive.
The core message of the book is “He who has a ‘why’ to live for can bear with almost any ‘how’”. Finding the ‘why’ to live i.e. finding ‘meaning’ in life, and then enduring the ‘how’s is what life is. There are three ways in which man discovers meaning in life:
1. Creating something or doing a deed - artists, scientists, researchers etc.
2. Experiencing something or encountering someone such as goodness, truth and beauty, and by experiencing nature and culture or, last but not the least, by experiencing another human being in his very uniqueness - by loving him
3. By the attitude we take towards unavoidable suffering - like that of concentration camp experience i.e. by turning one’s predicament into human achievement
While # 1 & # 2 are relatively easier to comprehend, # 3 warrants some discussion. Author goes on to explain how people have, in many cases, been able to turn their predicament into achievement. The key thing to understand is - in some way, suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds a meaning! For the inmates in camp it was a realization that their loved ones are waiting on the other side, or that only they can complete an experiment which was just about to be completed before they were sent to the camp. The author elaborates this principle further through the case of an elderly gentleman who went to see a psychologist because of depression he was suffering, since two years post his wife’s death. The psychologist asked him one question - “What would have happened, if you had died first, and your wife would have had to survive you?” “Oh”, he said, “This would have been terrible for her; how she would have suffered”. Wherein psychologist replied - that the gentleman in fact saved his wife from suffering, at the price of surviving and mourning her. The gentleman left with a sigh of relief!
If Life has a meaning, then suffering also has to have a meaning - since it is an inevitable part of life. Whether one is worth of his/her sufferings is the thing that makes the difference! Reminds me of the Hindi / Urdu quote by Muhammad Iqbal -“Khudi ko kar buland itna ke har taqdeer se pehle Khuda bande se khud pooche bata teri raza kya hai.”
Life’s meaning can be discovered well through # 1 & # 2 above too, but what do you do in face of un-avoidable suffering? “Suffering” isn’t a bad thing - it is just another way in which meaning of life is realized – it is an opportunity to turn your predicament into achievement
Coming back to the book - It has been published in 21 other languages, English editions have sold more than 12 MN copies, and have seen more than 100 printings. Logotherapy itself was published originally in German in 20 volumes. If I have to keep only one book in my personal library it would be this.
If you have not read it... you will understand why everyone needs to read this before you even finish the first chapter.
Buy it, and pass it down to your children.
As this book makes the case that only imagined fantasies drive our lives.
If you want to live long and healthy with success upon this earth?
Then imagine yourself living for some higher holy cause and this will in turn drive you to a very long successful healthy life.