To remain optimistic, to retain the last ounce of courage and to look for meaning in one’s existence amid difficulties may not sound possible, but they are not distant from the reality either. All these are within one’s powers. There could be times when a man is on the verge of losing himself to his fateful circumstances, yet he can keep his dignity.
And, this brings me to talk about Viktor Frankl’s book “Man’s Search for Meaning”. A neurologist, psychologist, and a Holocaust survivor. This book is not about incidents that happened in the concentration camp. Rather, it is about things that helped him survive the grueling experiences.
Frankl had lived through death camps at Auschwitz and Dachau. His experiences were gut wrenching, but he didn’t fail to find hope for himself and give hope to his readers. Even in his sufferings, he found a meaning in them. He lived by Nietzsche’s quote, “ He who has a why to live for can bear with almost any how.”
“He who has a why to live for can bear with almost any how.”
As much as he was an optimist, he was a realist too. I would say he was a realistic optimist. In the entire account of his experiences, I felt he greatly stressed upon the inner spiritual freedom. His book talks about the inner freedom, a freedom that can keep a person sane and not let the external events rob him of his dignity and identity. It’s the inner freedom that lets you remain unaffected by the environment outside you.
No matter how much he suffered, he never let his inner freedom go.
For instance, once Dr. Frankl was irritated with his miserable life condition. Almost starving and typhus taking over his body, sore feet and broken shoes that made things further painful and made him agitated. But, he realized he must try to focus on other thoughts instead of constantly thinking of his situation. Just then something dawned upon him. He envisioned himself standing in front of a wide audience lecturing on the psychology of the concentration camp and the audience was listening attentively to his lectures. To me, this particular incident is the cornerstone of this book, his survival despite the fateful circumstances.
As he beautifully puts Rilke’s quote “How much suffering there is to get through” meaning one has to suffer what is there to suffer. It’s is okay to break down and shed your tear because this shows the courage to bear and the courage to accept your suffering.
I have come across a book that talks about optimism which isn’t shallow, optimism backed by right actions and thoughts. I feel this is one of the finest books I have read so far. A kind of spiritual book that makes you see your life from a different perspective. It teaches you that life doesn’t stop just like that. You have to find a profound meaning associated with your life, a purpose. That’s when you see yourself moving ahead undeterred by the greatest adversities.
I truly believe one must read this book, sublime and full of compassion. It’s one of those things a man must do before he rests in peace. As I conclude my musings here, I know the story hasn’t ended yet. Some of his beautiful thoughts will remain with me for a long long time.
“ Love is the ultimate and the highest goal to which man must aspire”
“ It didn’t really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us”
“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”