The Meaning of Life by
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How did I happen to read that book?  I don’t remember anyone giving it to me or seeing it in the house, so most likely it was in a school library, maybe thoughtfully displayed by a librarian, or maybe just calling to me from a shelf. In any case it was not like anything I had read and it spoke powerfully to my own adolescent yearning to make sense of existence.

How did I happen to read that book?  I don’t remember anyone giving it to me or seeing it in the house, so most likely it was in a school library, maybe thoughtfully displayed by a librarian, or maybe just calling to me from a shelf. In any case it was not like anything I had read and it spoke powerfully to my own adolescent yearning to make sense of existence.

I never forgot the title and author: “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Viktor Frankl, though I hadn’t thought of it for years.  I did remember being awed that it was written by a Holocaust survivor who had managed to find, even in the darkest and most terrible circumstances, some way to find meaning and hope.  It helped him to survive.  It could help others.

Wondering if I had remembered correctly, I did a brief Google search and discovered that the book had been extremely popular and widely read.  Frankl was an Austrian psychiatrist and survivor who developed a theory he called logotherapy, with the following concepts:

“Life has meaning under all circumstances, even the most miserable ones.

Our main motivation for living is our will to find meaning in life.

We have inalienable freedom to find meaning.

We can find meaning in life in three different ways:

  1. By creating a work or doing a deed;
  2. By experiencing something or encountering someone;
  3. By the attitude we take toward unavoidable suffering”

Reading this description surprised me—perhaps the book had inspired me more than I realized.   I have valued a purpose-driven life and have found meaning in ways that closely track his description.

Thank you, Viktor Frankl, and thank you to the librarian too.

Profile photo of Khati Hendry Khati Hendry


Characterizations: moving, well written

Comments

  1. Well stated: ‘just calling to me from a shelf.’

  2. Thank you Khati for sharing this book that was so meaningful to you, I hadn’t heard of Frankl or his work.

    And thank you too for thanking the school librarian!

  3. Jim Willis says:

    Khati,
    I’ve got to find that book and read it. From what little you have shared, it sounds right on target and expresses the thoughts clearly and concisely. More than that, it provides a lot of food for thought about the purpose of life and how to realize it: by creating, by personal interactions, and by dealing well with pain. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Khati, you did such a marvelous job of describing Frankl’s seminal work. I have heard so much about The Meaning of Life, but your “Cliff Notes” were beautifully distilled and focused. You have inspired me to pick it up. We all need hope in these troubled times.
    BTW: have you ever come across the Japanese concept of “Ikigai?” Google it. You might find it’s formula for balance and “a reason to get up in the morning” resonates with Frankl discoveries of meaning. Thanks!

    • Khati Hendry says:

      Full disclosure, the quotation marks around the cogent description of logotherapy were there because I got them from Google. Thanks for the info on ikigai—I did google that as you suggested, and noted that they actually compare it to logotherapy—but going beyond. Both worthy concepts about meaning of life, and may we all experience that!

  5. Thank you, Khati, for being about the fifth or sixth person to strongly endorse this book, beginning around 20 to 25 years ago. I think yours is the straw that motivates the camel to go to the library and get a copy and read it. Again, thanks for the unintentional cajoling.

    • Khati Hendry says:

      Interesting that others also mentioned the book. You’ll have to let us know how you like the book if you do read it. It was impactful in my teens, and the synopsis still resonated when I looked it up for this prompt.

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