Man's search for meaning - Book Notes

Man's search for meaning -Book Notes

I finished reading ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’ by Viktor Frankl today. It is one of those books that make you feel bad for not having picked them earlier. Well, better late than never. Actually I might actually read this book once every few years. This is how much I have been impacted by this book. The author was an Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist who survived 4 concentration camps during the Holocaust. He is also the founder of logotherapy, which assumes the primary motivational force of an individual is to find a meaning in life. I will not try to explain this here because I don’t want to misrepresent anything about it due to my new and basic understanding of it. But the concept of ‘meaning of life’ makes sense to me. A book reads (listens, in my case) like an autobiographical essay where the author uses his own experiences at the concentration camps and other examples to drive home the idea that the ultimate goal of a man is to find meaning in life which he can live for.

I had read Ikigai (excellent book by the way, recommended) very recently and thematically both the books are very similar. Meaning of life. I think I like this school of thought.

Here are a few takeaways from the book, more for my future reference.

  1. Those who have a ‘why’ to live, can bear with almost any ‘how’.

  2. At the end of the day, look back at what you thought about the most during that day. What kind of thoughts used up most of your bandwidth for the day? Are they actually relevant in the bigger scheme of things or just temporary troughs in the wave of life? If a day is spent worrying or ruminating over things in the past then what does this change?

  3. A man is more than a sum of his circumstances. Some people let the adverse conditions change them. Some people become bitter and negative just like the surroundings. Some choose to stay true to their morals and ethics under the same conditions. Even if all freedoms are taken away from man, he always has the choice of how he behaves under certain circumstances.

  4. Prolonged suffering can break a man to a point where he can give up on everything that he associates himself with. His belonging, his pride, his body, and even his life but a man who has found the purpose of his life will never lose the will to live.

  5. The meaning of life could be an achievement that one needs to obtain, a task one needs to fulfill or the love of a person. It is different for everyone.

  6. There is a grand meaning to life but it is hard to get or understand it until one is near the end of his life. Instead, there are local, current meanings of life that vary from moment to moment, circumstance to circumstance. Individual scenes for the movie have their own meaning which could be very different from the meaning of the movie which can only be found out after once the movie has been watched until the end.

  7. Happiness cannot be pursued; it must ensue. The search for happiness is an exercise in futility. A man should search for the purpose of his life which in term gives in happiness. The reason for happiness.

  8. Suffering (unavoidable kind) can be seen as a matter of pride and achievement. One should strive to be worthy of his sufferings.

  9. “To draw an analogy: a man’s suffering is similar to the behavior of a gas. If a certain quantity of gas is pumped into an empty chamber, it will fill the chamber completely and evenly, no matter how big the chamber. Thus suffering completely fills the human soul and conscious mind, no matter whether the suffering is great or little. Therefore the “size” of human suffering is absolutely relative.” - Verbatim Quote from the book.
    I plan to read more on this topic. If you would like to read this book you can get it here. I will keep the blog updated with where I reach.

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