Sunday, January 10, 2016

"Man's Search for Meaning" by Viktor Frankl

  The night before last I finished Viktor Frankl's book "Man's Search for Meaning".  I read it in like 2 days, but not because I particularly enjoyed it... in fact in many ways I struggled with it... but rather I kept reading and reading hoping for some sort of resolve, some sense of "ah yes!  This is what it's all about!  This is the answer!".  I never got that.
  Frankl's book boasts that it has sold over 12 million copies and helped countless people find that elusive "meaning" in their life.  Thus I went into the book with high expectations.  Apparently though, I am not most people.  While I was certainly drawn in by the narrative of what happened in the concentration camps during Frankl's time there, I couldn't quite grasp my head around the clinical way in which he approached it all.  Maybe it was his own form of coping (in fact he admits to that at some point in the book), but my mind does not work that way, and thus the detached way in which he wrote was hard for me to take in (although I was impressed by the ability of the author to share both the good and bad of the situation and of himself so fully, unashamed and unhindered by how it might come across...which was probably only possible because of his seeming detachment).
  My best summary, of which of course I could be wrong, is that Frankl concludes that meaning of life is basically finding and doing whatever it is we were meant to do.  Yes I know how that sounds, and I guess that's why I walked away from this book a bit disappointed and still filled with so many questions without answers. 
  Frankl repeatedly says things like "Man should not ask what the meaning of life is, but rather recognize that it is he who is asked", thus implying that that we make our life have meaning based on what we do with it.... something I am not sure I fully agree with. He also says that "man is ultimately self determining (and) what he becomes, he has made out of himself", which only seems to solidify his point that our lives matter only to the extent that we make them matter...something again that I don't know that I agree with.
  Finally, I also found it confusing how Frankl could say that could say "Everyone has his own specific vocation or mission in life to carry out a concrete assignment which  demands fulfillment" and then turn around and admit "the meaning of life differs from man to man, from day to day, and from hour to hour".  How can man discover the "concrete assignment" which is meant to give his life meaning, if that assignment can change from day to day, or hour to hour?  And how can he even begin to discover something he seemingly should already know (based on Frankl's reasoning that we should not be asking what is life's meaning but rather showing that meaning by our lives).
  I have no doubts that my understanding of this book is limited and that my very own black-and-white nature probably stands in the way of me being able to really connect and accept all that the author is trying to lay out.  I will also admit that my mind was not all that interested in the scientific meanderings of logos-therapy and thus my mind tended to wander quite a bit through out the reading of this book.  However, despite those admissions, I can't honestly say that I would recommend this book.  I am sure other people have found it helpful and probably would suggest it's reading to others, but for me...I just can't and thus I give my regards to the late Viktor Frankl.

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