Monday, May 30, 2016

Man's Search for Meaning

This was my family's book club book for May, and I did finish it sometime last week, I just haven't had time to write about it. I have read books about the Holocaust before, but never one where the author then gave so much commentary about living in the concentration camp. Thinking about the event in the abstract actually made the Holocaust much more real for me, if that makes sense. I thought this was an incredible book.

One thing I kept thinking was how much of the concepts Frankl explained in discussing logotherapy and his camp experiences were gospel-centered precepts. At one point, Frankl discusses how the goal of psychiatry should not be to reach a "tensionless" state. Opposition has a purpose in refining us as individuals, and that doesn't have to make us sad. That's such a major part of my understanding of the gospel. Frankl's ideas reminded me God has designed us to thrive--or just be able to survive--in certain ways, and understanding these ways can come from so many different sources. The interesting thing is that unlike most books about the Holocaust, instead of convincing me of how much evil there is in the world, this book helped me to remember how much good there is. I think that's a testament to the amazing humility with which Frankl approaches his understanding of what happened to him.

Another concept I kept thinking about after finishing the book was Frankl's thought that the Statue of Liberty on the East Coast should be mirrored by the Statue of Responsibility on the West Coast. This was especially poignant to me because we actually just went to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island this past weekend. A focus on responsibility would do so much good for our society, but a focus on the complementary nature of liberty and responsibility would do even more. I think living with the personal strength that these two things bestow is what encourages us to practice meaning-making in the powerful way that Frankl describes. To me, meaning-making that drives us to certain action is a good definition of courage. Courage comes from knowing you have not only the ability to act but also the responsibility to do so. Most people would say that those in concentration camps had neither of those things, but because Frankl sees meaning-making as man's highest purpose, he was able to understand, in kind of a reciprocal way, how he potentially also retained a shred of liberty and responsibility for his actions and his attitude, even in such a soul-crushing environment. I'm not sure I'm explaining this all very well, but I've always thought that courage is one of the most important values I could teach my children. It is courageous to be able to face your own suffering with the nobility that Frankl did. I think courage enables us to live with all of the other values that are important--faithfulness, kindness, anything.

Again, I'm not sure I've explained this all very well, but I'll just end by saying that I am very happy I read this book.

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