Thursday, July 1, 2010

Man's Search For Meaning- VIKTOR E. FRANKL

'' This timeless, classic book is explosive and essential reading. The author did not intend for it to be a best seller and this dynamic certainly adds to the realism conveyed in its subtle and hard-hitting message. Written from a psychological perspective and dealing with life in a German concentration camp in WWII, this book has an emotional impact that keeps hitting home from many layers long after I turned the last page. The opening paragraph reads: 'This book does not claim to be an account of facts and events but of personal experiences, experiences which millions of prisoners have suffered time and again. It is the inside story of a concentration camp, told by one of its survivors. This tale is not concerned with the great horrors, which have already been described often enough (though less often believed), but with the multitude of small torments. In other words it will try to answer this question: How was everyday life in a concentration camp reflected in the mind of the average prisoner?' He goes on to write, 'What was really needed was a fundamental change in our attitude toward life, We had to learn ourselves and, furthermore, we had to teach the despairing men, that it did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us.' And, 'Life ultimately means taking responsibility to find the right answer to its problems and to fulfill the tasks which it constantly sets for each individual.' Then, most profoundly, 'These tasks, and therefore the meaning of life, differ from man to man, and from moment to moment. Thus it is impossible to define the meaning of life in a general way. Questions about the meaning of life can never be answered by sweeping statements. "Life" does not mean something vague, but something very real and concrete, just as life's tasks are also very real and concrete. They form man's destiny, which is different and unique for each individual. No man and no destiny can be compared with any other man or any other destiny. No situation repeats itself, and each situation calls for a different response. Sometimes the situation in which a man finds himself may require him to shape his own fate by action. At other timesit is more advantageous for him to make use of an opportunity for contemplation and to realize assets in this way. Sometimes man may be required to simply accept fate, to bear his cross. Every situation is distinguished by its uniqueness, and there is always only one right answer to the problem posed by the situation at hand.' This book found me, rather than me finding it. It is one of those memorable masterpieces that delivers a powerful, personal message surrounded by an aura of realism that captivated me from the first page. Viktor Frankl writes from personal experience and skillfully manages to steer away from the mainstream literature about the attrocities of concentration camps and persecution in WWII. I found myself contemplating destiny at one time whilst reading, with this in mind, here follows an excerpt from the book, about the story of Death in Teheran: 'A rich and mighty Persian once walked in his garden with one of his servants. The servant cried that he had just encountered Death, who had threatened him. He begged his master to give him his fastest horse so that he could make haste and flee to Teheran, which he could reach that same evening. The master consented and the servant galloped off on the horse. On returning to his house, the master himself met Death, and questioned him, "Why did you terrify and threaten my servant?" "I did not threaten him; I only showed surprise in still finding him here when I planned to meet him tonight in Teheran," said Death.'A Man's Search for Meaning is essential reading if you enjoy a wider perspective of life. In fact, I'll be surprised if you can stop yourself from reading it in one sitting.Contents: Part One: Experiences in a Concentration Camp, Part Two: Logotherapy in a Nutshell, Postscript 1984: The Case for a Tragic Optimism '' says Shayne..

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