Man's Search for Meaning is more than a story of Viktor E. Frankl's triumph: it is a remarkable blend of science and humanism and an introduction to the most significant psychological movement of our day.
©1959, 1962, 1984 Viktor E. Frankl; (P)1995 Blackstone Audiobooks
"An enduring work of survival literature." (The New York Times)
"Throw out your self-help books!"
This is an utterly remarkable book for so many reasons. What strikes me most about it is how it really gives meaning to the idea that the whole can be greater than the sum of its parts. What I mean by this is the following: the book is not great psychology, nor great philosophy nor even great narrative. And yet, as a whole I would call it a great book. Why? Because it makes a definitive impact. I cannot say that I walked away from this book unchanged. I suppose it is Viktor Frankl himself who makes all the difference -- in him you find a truly humane, humble and ultimately wise human being. I was truly impressed to hear him quoting Nietzsche while in a concentration camp; this at a time when Nietzsche's work had been distorted and used to promote anti-semitism by the Nazis. One warning though -- his existentialist philosophy is outdated and really needs to be complemented by a contemporary understanding of human nature.
"Potentially life changing..."
So, we all know about the Holocaust, yet this book is a bit different - told with such "tragic optimism" that the message is not moral outrage or repulsion, but of meaning in the midst of unimaginable degradation. The "why" that makes the "how" of suffering bearable. Frankle quotes Nietzsche throughout.
The most moving passages for me were his imagined conversations with his wife, (who probably by that time was dead), which nonetheless gave him the purpose for continuing to live, and the glimpses of Nature, such as sunsets, raw in beauty, beyond the barbed wire.
His message is simple - it is in loving the people we love and in the struggle that our lives demand of us, that we find meaning that transcends the mere pleasure principle. Our own "ontic logos" is individually uncovered, not found through intellectual introspection on "THE meaning of life" (which is a nonsense and which usually just leads to neurosis).
Frankle highlights the contemporary consumerist "tyranny of happiness", which is endemic in the West, so that many patients feel not just unhappy, but deeply ashamed of their unhappiness.
Existentialism is not popular in the zeitgeist, but I think we can learn much from that generation who lived through the War, and the Holocaust, and developed such philosophies of coping with terrible hardship and suffering. By contrast, we can be very superficial, and self centred, and it left me considering what issues I cared about enough to take action on. Would I regret not doing so otherwise? Yes, probably - as an opportunity wasted!
This is a humane, inspiring, potentially life changing book; well narrated, subtle, profound and unpretentious. It deserves the highest rating.
"The great book!"
The great book! It cannot be listened to without comprehensive attention and understanding each word. Every single word, every phrase is meaningful and gives a new way of living!
"Philosophy at its best"
This is not an easy read, not because of language - Frankl is clear, concise and easy to follow, but because he is exploring meaning from the most extreme angles. Using his experience as a survivor of Nazi concentration camps in the most honest and frank fashion I have ever heard/read anybody describing such experiences, Frankl finds profound truths in regard of meaning and the human condition.
His conclusions are very sobering and profound and exactly because of his experience very insightful and inspiring. (As I have seen people referencing this book as indication that Frankl was religious, I would like to mention that in my reading, he dismantles religion as a means of self deception, even if maybe helpful to remain sane under extreme circumstances. I.e. I understand this book as clear statement against the validity of any truths or meaning for our lives coming from religion.)
I would wholeheartedly recommend this book. Both parts, the autobiography, and the introduction to Frankl's logotherapy, gave me much to think about. I will be buying this in print also, having now listened to the audio. It's that good.
if you do not know what is in this book - you know nothing.
In some ways this is too much to hear - uncomfortable listening - but I will keep listening
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