Man’s Search For Meaning (Viktor Frankl)

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Okay, so I rarely read philosophical or psychological texts, but this one was recommended to me. I was reading Albert Camus’ “The Myth of Sisyphus” (a book whose basic premise is that if one believes there is no life after death, then the only question of import is whether or not suicide is an option, but purports to eventually arrive at a negative answer to that question) and it was simply taking too long to reach the promised point at which Camus declares suicide a non-option. I’ve been somewhat depressed of late anyway, so as you can imagine, such a book was not helpful. Well, after I revealed my failed attempt to read Camus’ famous text, Frankl’s was recommended to me as one that grapples with similar issues but in a very different way. I decided to give it a whirl…and I’m glad I did.

Frankl, who was imprisoned in the concentration camps in Nazi Germany during World War II, first tells the story of his experiences in those camps and then proceeds to elaborate on his theory of “logotherapy.” In essence, Frankl argues that human beings need a sense of purpose — we need to feel like we’re doing something meaningful, and it’s those moments when we lose this sense of purpose that we also lose hope and/or the will to live. (This is, of course, a gross oversimplification of Frankl’s rather beautiful and complex theory.) He shares his observations and experiences from WWII as examples of how he came to believe so deeply in this theory.

I’m glad I strayed from my comfort zone, because this one was a really interesting and insightful read that still has me thinking (and I finished it days ago!).

GOOD FOR:  Anyone having an existential crisis (no matter how big or small), people interested in “big questions” (such as, What is the meaning of life?), and those who simply want to think a little more deeply about their role in this world.

BAD FOR:  Readers searching for a “light” read, people looking for a pick-me-up, and anyone who’s in need of a break from philosophical thought.

GOOD WITH:  Hector and the Search for HappinessThe AlchemistThe Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared.

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