“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances…it is this spiritual freedom—which cannot be taken away—that makes life meaningful and purposeful. “
Man's Search for Meaning is one of my all-time top ten reads. Few books have influenced me as deeply and caused me to reflect as much as this book.
Viktor Frankl was a survivor of four different concentration camps, including Auschwitz. While he labored to preserve his own life, his parents, brother, and pregnant wife perished in the camps.
While Viktor struggled in the camps, he observed the nature of the prisoners and how the prisoners reacted to extreme depravity and loss of identity. Because of his unique background in psychoanalysis, Viktor was able to deduce conclusions about the nature of mankind.
What I liked:
Here are some thoughts and quotes that I highlighted in the book:
• He found that the worst part of being physically beaten was the “mental agony caused by the injustice”.
• When the majority of the prisoners were allowed to work near to each other and were not closely watched, they would discuss food in detail.
• The sexual urge was generally absent, probably because of a lack of nourishment.
• “Love is the ultimate and highest goal to which man can aspire. “
• “Love goes very beyond the physical person of the beloved.”
• “As the inner life of the prisoner tended to become more intense, he also experienced the beauty of art and nature as never before. “
• “They were able to retreat from their terrible surroundings to a life of inner riches and spiritual freedom. “
• “The ‘size’ of human suffering is absolutely relative…it completely fills the human soul and conscious mind, no matter whether the suffering is great or little.”
• “The camp inmate was frightened of making decisions and of taking any sort of initiative whatsoever.”
• “The consciousness of one’s inner value is anchored in higher, more spiritual things and cannot be shaken by camp life. But how many free men, let alone prisoners, possess it?”
• “A man who becomes conscious of the responsibility he bears toward a human being…or to an unfinished work will never be able to throw away his life.”
What I would have changed:
This book is autobiographical and as such, the content isn’t really open for debate. The book can be eye opening to those who are sensitive to information about the holocaust.
Although I read both sections I and II of the book, I found it hard to get through the second half. The first section is Viktor’s story and the second section tells of the science of “logotherapy”, from the Greek word logos ("meaning") which he created. Both sections are worth reading, but the second section is less like a story and more like a textbook.
I gave this book 5/5 stars.
Purchase: Man's Search for Meaning
Barnes and Noble
Genre: nonfiction, autobiography, history, philosophy, psychology
Publisher: June 14th 2006 by Beacon Press (first published 1946)
Mass Market Paperback, 165 pages
Where I got the book: Barnes and Noble store
Food to eat while reading: Staff of Life Bread