Man’s Search for Meaning, by Viktor Frankl

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This came along at a good time for me. I discovered it via an excellent post by Merlin Mann on his website, entitled No One Needs Permission to be Awesome, in which he states:

If that sounds like fancy incense for hippies and children, perhaps in a way that seems frankly un-doable for someone as practical and important and immortal as yourself, then go face death. Go get cancer. Or, go get crushed by a horse Or, go get hit by a van. Or, go get separated from everything you ever loved forever.

The part in bold is the part that relates to Viktor Frankl.

I’ve been in the 12-step AA program for over 5 years now and it has helped me immensely in finding meaning. The whole idea of ‘not regretting the past nor wishing to shut the door on it’ ties in nicely with Viktor Frankl’s philosophy.

I shan’t give a synopsis of the book. Amazon does that nicely. What I will do is illustrate the parts that jumped out at me.

Firstly, it’s okay not to be happy. There is huge potential for growth in suffering. This I have learned for myself, but to have it set down on paper with such great examples is very helpful to me.

Next, the true meaning of one’s life may not be truly discernible until one reaches the end of one’s life. People can actually change; this I know to be true through AA. The example he gives is of a doctor who was monstrous during the holocaust, but about whom he heard tales of goodness years later.

More may come back to me and I really shouldn’t be attempting to write this in the few minutes that I have, but I know that if I don’t write it now, it may not get written at all!

The first half of the book is about Frankl’s time in concentration camps. The second half covers his philosophy of logotherapy (meaning therapy), which he had started to formulate before being arrested and deported to the camps. He actually refused to emigrate to the safety of the USA, knowing full well that he would end up in a concentration camp, because he felt it was his duty to remain with his family. His expectant wife, brother and both parents did not survive the camps. Imagine finding meaning after that? But he does.

If 42 no longer suffices for you as an answer, try this book. It could help!