During my last visit to Melbourne, a friend of mine gifted me a copy of Viktor E. Frankl’s best selling book “Man’s Search For Meaning”. While I always appreciate a good book (thanks B!) I didn’t think too much of it, I certainly didn’t foresee myself reading the entire thing on my short 2 hour flight home. Then again what did I expect from a book that has sold over 12 million copies in over dozen different languages?
The book is a personal but dispassionate retelling of Professor Frankls experiences through 4 seperate Nazi concentration camps (inclusive of Auschwitz). If this retelling alone doesn’t make you feel infinitely grateful for your modern luxury filled life, the experiences themselves are offset by his own psychological deconstruction of the the stages that a prisoner will go through. First the shock of being stripped of all dignity, second the complete blunting of emotions and desensitisation to horror and third the struggle of life after camp.
The book ultimately explores the idea that life is a series of unavoidable sufferings, and to in order to prevail and find peace one must find meaning in said suffering – otherwise what exactly is the point to life at all? Frankl makes a compelling argument, perhaps strong enough to convince even the most stubborn of nihilistic existentialists. While there are many profound moments reading Frankls story, one paragraph in particular made me take a moments silence after it had thoroughly slapped me in the face:
“I shall never forget how I was roused one night by the groans of a fellow prisoner, who threw himself about in his sleep, obviously having a horrible nightmare. Since I had always been especially sorry for people who suffered from fearful dreams or deliria, I wanted to wake the poor man. Suddenly I drew back the hand which was ready to shake him, frightened at the thing I was about to do. At that moment I became intensely conscious of the fact that no dream, no matter how horrible, could be as bad as the reality of the camp which surrounded us, and to which I was about to recall him.”
As Zig Ziglar likes to say “Gratitude is the healthiest of all human emotions” and this book delivers a much needed dose. I highly recommend picking up a copy.