For 3 years, psychiatrist Viktor E. Frankl labored in Nazi concentration camps, including Auschwitz. Not to evoke sympathy, Frankl uses his story to substantiate his understanding of what has been puzzling humans since existence: what is our purpose? He concludes the book with his school of thought, logotherapy.
Aside from selling millions upon millions of copies worldwide, this book provides wonderful insight to the human condition. Just about every paragraph has something quotable; here are my favorites.
“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”
“Having a Why enables one to bear the How.”
“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
“Our greatest freedom is the freedom to choose our attitude.”
“Suffering is not unlike a gas entering a chamber; it wholly and evenly engulfs the space and does not discriminate regardless of how much.”
“Life means taking responsibility to find right answers and to fulfill tasks which it constantly requires.”
“It does not matter what we expect from life, but rather what life expects from us.”
“Have the courage to face suffering so not to lose dignity and meaning.”
“Don’t aim at success. The more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side effect of one’s personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one’s surrender to a person other than oneself.”
“The attempt to develop a sense of humor and to see things in a humorous light is some kind of a trick learned while mastering the art of living.”
“We cannot, after all, judge a biography by its length, by the number of pages in it; we must judge by the richness of the contents…Sometimes the ‘unfinisheds’ are among the most beautiful symphonies.”
On reliving the past may forgo our opportunities to live in the present, he quoted Bismarck:
“Life is like being at the dentist. You always think the worst is yet to come, but it’s already over.”
On sacrifice, he references Spinoza:
“Emotion ceases to be suffering as soon as we form a clear picture of it; suffering ceases to be when it finds meaning.”
In the end, the meaning of a life is to be discovered via the world, not within our our delusions. The cause in itself may be to serve, to love someone.
Frankl, Viktor E. Man’s Search for Meaning. Boston: Beacon, 2006. Print.