Review: ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’

For want of a better genre description, lets call this a book review. Although I would certainly have preferred the word eulogy.
But first, a little drumroll: I would be the last person on Earth to fall in any sort of cult. Cults, the highest form of conformism known to mankind, depress me. I genuinely find it hard to hold much respect for someone who becomes a blind follower of a person, method of thought or school of practice. Not only does it close oneself to any other form of thought, it is also deeply demeaning to one’s basic faith in oneself. Of course, that is if you don’t count faith in oneself as a thought method in itself.

But the closest I have ever come to cultification is the book “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Victor Frankl. It is a book based, largely, on Frankl’s experiences as an inmate in Auswitz – probably the most notorious of concentration camps in Europe during the second war. Looking at human behavior in an experience as extreme as living through a concentration camp through the eyes of a psychiatrist holds an obvious attraction. It is easy to imagine how such an account would be a gold mine for anyone interested in observing and trying to make sense of human behavior. It was the primary reason why I picked the book up in the first place. However, as you read through, the richness of Frankl’s experiential account slowly became incidental to the sheer brilliance that is the book itself.

Have you have ever found yourself asking questions to the tune of why we are all here? Who am I? Why do we all get up everyday and do whatever it is we do when everyone has but one inevitable end written? Have you have ever wondered whether there is a rationality behind all the chaos surrounding us? If so, this is a book you cannot afford to miss. It will not answer any of these questions. But what it will do is give you a way of looking at life that, finally, makes a little sense.

I wouldn’t be so presumptuous as to assume that an account in my words would come remotely close to capturing the essence of this amazing book’s message. So I would rather let the writer’s words be their own brand ambassadors. It might not give you as many goosbumps as a standalone piece as it would in the rest of the book’s context, but here is an excerpt:
“As each situation in life represents a challenge to man and presents a problem for him to solve, the question of the meaning of life may actually be reversed. Ultimately, man should not ask what the meaning of life is, but rather he must recognize it is he who is being 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. Thus, logotherapy* sees in responsibleness the very essence of human existence.”

If you thought Ayn Rand was exciting, prepare to be bowled over by the genius that was this man. A word of friendly advice: Don’t forget to wear your cult-protection helmets.

* Frankl’s ‘school of thought
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3 thoughts on “Review: ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’

  1. While I have heard so much praise for this book, there is something strange which has kept me away from reading it – will try my best to explain it here. The context in which he wrote this book n probably found life's meaning was an exceptional set of circumstances. While it might be an inspirational read, isn't it difficult to transport this meaning to situations in life when u seek a meaning? I mean, often I find myself seeking a meaning in the dullest of moments – in the most mundane of circumstances. And then to remind myself of contexts like his doesn't seem easy.Don't know if I cud get across what i mean :)!

  2. @Parul: I completely get what you're talking about. But only half the book is about his experiences in a camp. And even that part is about there can be meaning EVEN in a situation like that. Let alone our moments of sorrow.. or sheer boredom. The other half of the book is about this funda called Logotherapy.. And how he has used it with his patients to treat the most common of psychological, mental or even physical illnesses… Interesting, to say the least. Give it a shot.. Trust me, its worth it. :)@Aditya: Your eyes are colored 😉

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