man’s search for meaning collection of passages


finding meaning

I’ve just finished reading Victor E. Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning. I bought the book on Amazon for some casual reading during the bus rides home and fell in love with it. It’s both inspiration and enlightening on several fronts. I’ve always thought about a few of the ideas he brings up in the book, but I could never quite find enough material to warrant a blog post, but Frankl’s book has allowed me to delve into those topics once again, so look forward to a few more posts about attitudes and perspectives. I wanted to share a few memorable quotes and passages from the last portion of the book related to logotherapy, but more importantly, to life and the meaning of life. If you’re interested in reading the entire book, I highly recommend it. I purchased the Beacon Press version, translated by Ilse Lasch with a foreword by Harold S. Kushner and afterword by William J. Winslade. You can find a link to the product page here.

On life and meaning:

Ultimately, man should not ask what the meaning of his life is, but rather he must recognize that it is he who is asked. In a word, each man is questioned by life; and he can only answer to life by answering for his own life; to life he can only respond by being responsible.

My takeaway: The meaning of life is inconsequential, as it is always changing and by doing instead of seeking, we will find the answers we are looking for.

life’s finiteness as well as the finality of what he makes out of both his life and himself.

My TAKEAWAY: I like to think of this as Frankl being the founding father of not only logotherapy, but also the hashtag #YOLO. Life is finite and decisions that you make in life are final, so make the most of it.

According to logotherapy, we can discover this meaning in life in three different ways: (1) by creating a work or doing a deed; (2) by experiencing something or encountering someone; and (3) by the attitude we take toward unavoidable suffering.

My TAKEAWAY: There is no single meaning to life, but we can find meaning through these categories of experiences.

On love:

Love is the only way to grasp another human being in the innermost core of his personality. No one can become fully aware of the very essence of another human being unless he loves him. By his love he is enabled to see the essential traits and features in the beloved person; and even more, he sees that which is potential in him, which is not yet actualized but yet ought to be actualized. Furthermore, by his love, the loving person enables the beloved person to actualize these potentialities. By making him aware of what he can be and of what he should become, he makes these potentialities come true.

MY TAKEAWAY: This is what I believe to be love in a nutshell. He puts it quite succinctly and I share his views on this. Love has the ability to impact the lover and the lovee and through this, we find meaning and we grow. My favorite part? “the very essence of another human being” – that is the beauty of love.

On being happy:

This quote is from Edith Weisskopf-Joelson and appears in Frankl’s book.

Our current mental-hygeine philosophy stresses the idea that people ought to be happy, that unhappiness is a symptom of maladjustment. Such a value system might be responsible for the fact that the burden of unavoidable unhappiness is increased by unhappiness about being unhappy.

My takeaway: Go read some articles on EliteDaily and ThoughtCatalog about how to be happy. This is perpetuating exactly what Weisskopf-Joelson is talking about. There is a certain beauty and learning experience in being unhappy and we haven’t, as a society, realized or accepted this. It echoes the phrase that women hear a lot: “smile”, as if we’re all supposed to be happy all of the time.

To the European, it is a characteristic of the American culture that, again and again, one is commanded and ordered to “be happy”. But happiness cannot be pursued; it must ensue. One must have a reason to “be happy.” Once the reason is found, however, one becomes happy automatically. As we see, a human being is not one in pursuit of happiness, but rather in search of a reason to become happy, last but not least, through actualizing the potential meaning inherent and dormant in a given situation.

my takeaway: A continuation of the same point above about how we’re encouraged to be happy, which gives people the impression that happiness is something to be captured and attained, when in fact, it will come about after we find the thing we can be happy about.