Man’s Search for Meaning

Well, I’m not sure what I think about Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning. It’s a classic with millions of copies in print. There must be something to  this book, right? Millions have read it and that means millions have talked about it. There are thousands of reviews for each edition on Amazon. And, yet…I feel like I missed something. It’s so hard to read about the Holocaust. And, in light of the recent tragic murders at the Pittsburgh synagogue, the antisemitic feelings of so many obviously still exist. I wanted to glean something important from this book, but it’s just another book. Part 1 is an incomplete story of Frankl’s World War II experiences and his survival, despite the SS and Nazi expectation of Jews. (I’m glad he survived and reviled at how so many were treated and murdered.) Part II is a very brief exploration of logostherapy. Many have had a positive response to this book so that’s a very good thing.

My whole life I’ve been searching for meaning, for the point of existence. I’ve read and studied and talked to people. I’ve been hoping for some amazing insight that will help me makes sense of life–not just my life, but the reason for life. I don’t feel like this book came close. He got through his horrible ordeal, but we don’t really know how or why he survived while so many of the people around him perished. There was one or two lines about going with fate, allowing fate to dictate where he went. He was going with the flow of his existence. Is that what should be gleaned? Of course, as a Jew, his commentary and thoughts are steeped in his faith and religion. That’s an issue for me, generally speaking, too.

As I grow older, I’ve been realizing that I’ve perhaps made too much of this meaning of life idea. I’m really seeing that there might not be any major reason for being here. I tend to make things bigger than they are. I tend to expect that others have figured it all out and I’m on the outside. But, watching our current political times, I don’t think people have meaning. I think people are opportunistic, doing what they can or must just to survive. They may add meaning after the fact, but for so many there’s no understanding or reason beyond survival; or, beyond providing resources for their progeny to survive. Is it really just about surviving? That would seem to be a big part of the human story and a big part of Frankl’s story. He survived a horrific experience and gleaned some personal insight from it which has then been couched in psychological terms. But, did he really discover meaning? No, he discovered a need for finding meaning. Or something else that I just didn’t discover for myself in his writing.

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