Every now and then, I come across a book that resonates deeply within my bones. A book made up of words that do not truly leave my blood, pages that turn themselves in my dreams, characters that I pass on the street, a subtext that reverberates into the universe. The echo of literature is a global phenomenon; it runs through the streams, rests amid the grass and pervades the air until everything is whole.
Man’s Search For Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl is one of the most profound pieces of work that I have ever come across. It is an amalgamation of philosophy entwined with accounts of Frankl’s survival in four different concentration camps during World War Two. It not only explicates his daily life in the horrific concentration camps, but also the way in which he found a means of coping.
Having read many survivors’ accounts of the concentration camps, I found that this one had subdued the brutality of the Nazi’s, yet still managed to remain the most poignant. Frankl’s ability to articulate such depth in the space of a few pages has left me in complete awe. This story is made up of 131 pages and it surpasses any other book I have ever read. It is a masterpiece. It deserves to be shared and publicised. This is not just a story, it is a philosophy, a guide on how to live your life. It is stripped of everything but the naked truth. It demonstrates that when man has nothing, he still has the freedom of choice.
This quote from Amazon is an accurate summation of the book:
"Frankl argues that we cannot avoid suffering but we can choose how to cope with it, find meaning in it, and move forward with renewed purpose."
Frankl’s words are timeless. This book can be read in a hundred years and man will still be able to find himself in it. The most heartbreaking part was his liberation from the concentration camps and his inability to adapt to real life after having endured such atrocity.
This book is veined with momentous quotes, but these are three that will live on within my mind until the end of time:
“In the concentration camp every circumstance conspires to make the prisoner lose his hold. All the familiar goals in life are snatched away. What alone remains is “the last of human freedoms” – the ability to “choose one’s attitude in a given set of circumstances.” This ultimate freedom, recognized by the ancient Stoics as well as by modern existentialists, takes on vivid significance in Frankl’s story. The prisoners were only average men, but some, at least, by choosing to be “worthy of their suffering” proved man’s capacity to rise above his outward fate.”
“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.”
“To draw an analogy: a man’s suffering is similar to the behaviour of gas. If a certain quantity of gas is pumped into an empty chamber, it will fill the chamber completely and evenly, no matter how big the chamber. Thus suffering completely fills the human soul and conscious mind, no matter whether the suffering is great or little. Therefore the “size” of human suffering is absolutely relative.”
Man’s Search For Meaning reveals just how little man needs to survive, but also how great of a challenge man can endure.
(Image Source: here)