Book Review: Mans Search for Meaning.

One of the more meaningful books I have read in the recent past is Viktor E Frankls Mans Search for Meaning. The book is a mere 165 pages long, but has sold over several million copies sold and has been quoted in almost every popular self-help book Ive come across. Its influence has indeed been staggering. The first part of the book is a highly moving account of Frankls stay in Auschwitz. Ofcourse any tale of Auschwitz is always meaningful, however it’s his observations as a psychologist of the immense strength of man inspite of being under extreme circumstances that leaves a deep and lasting impact on the reader.

Take the small example right in the beginning of the book, where men who had extremely sensitive ears and would wake up at the sound of a slightest creak, found themselves sleeping soundly in midst of gunfire and bombshells dropping. Or furthermore the unbelievably inspirational example of certain men inspite of the extreme circumstances they were in they “walked through huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread.”

The Wikipedia entry on Man’s Search for Meaning has a truly profound selection of quotes from this classic. I’ve selected my favourite below:

“A man can get used to anything, but do not ask us how.”

“We who lived in 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 freedomsto choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

“Nietzsche’s words, ‘He who has a why to live can bear with almost any how.'”

“When we are no longer able to change a situation just think of an incurable disease such as inoperable cancer we are challenged to change ourselves.”

“Fundamentally, therefore, any man can, even under such circumstances, decide what shall become of him mentally and spiritually. He may retain his human dignity even in a concentration camp.”

“We can discover this meaning in life in three different ways: (1) by creating a work or doing a deed; (2) by experiencing a something or encountering someone; and (3) by the attitude we take toward unavoidable suffering.”

“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.”

“Man is capable of changing the world for the better if possible, and of changing himself for the better if necessary.”

“We have come to know man as he really is. After all, man is that being who invented the gas chambers of Auschwitz; however, he is also that being who entered those gas chambers upright, with the Lord’s prayer or the Shema Yisrael on his lips.”

“A man who for years had thought he had reached the absolute limit of all possible suffering now found that suffering had no limits, and that he could suffer still more, and more intensely.”

“Woe to him, when the day of his dreams finally came, found it to be so different from all that he had longed for!”

“We were not hoping for happiness And yet we were not prepared for unhappiness.”

“Live as if you were living already for the second time and as if you had acted the first time as wrongly as you are about to act now!”

“An incurable psychotic individual may lose his usefulness but yet retain the dignity of a human being. This is my psychiatric credo.”

“Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” – (Arif’s comment: here lies the secret to enlightenment)

For a complete listing of the Books and Dvd’s that me and Ali are consuming have a look at our All Consuming list here.

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