The search for meaning must continue

“I read books by many different spiritual teachers, philosophers and professionals in all fields so that I’m constantly growing. Every day is a new opportunity to learn more.”
That was the quote on my calendar one day last week. Interestingly, it happened to be the same day when I learned about the death of Viktor Frankl at age 92.
And I gave thanks for a book that had been one of my great spiritual teachers–“Man’s Search for Meaning.”
It’s been more than three decades since I first read Frankl’s book but you can never forget an experience like that.
Here was a young man who had everything in life. A father with a high government position. Parents and siblings he cared about, and a young wife. A medical degree and a position heading up the neurological department of a large hospital.
And a half-finished book manuscript.
But an accident of birth placed him at the wrong place at the wrong time, and in 1942, he and his family were deported to the Theresienstadt concentration camp near Prague.
It was the beginning of the most horrible experiences any human being could ever have. Over the next years, young Frankl was in four concentration camps, including Auschwitz. The people he loved were killed. All of his possessions were taken from him. And he was denied even the right to human dignity.
Yet Viktor Frankl survived.
In 1945, Frankl returned to Vienna and became head of the neurological department of the Vienna Polyclinic Hospital and a professor of both neurology and psychiatry.
Over the next decades, he authored 32 books, which have been translated into 26 languages; received 29 honourary doctorates from universities around the world; and developed a revolutionary approach to psychotherapy known as logotherapy.
Frankl taught regularly until age 85, and even earned his pilot’s licence at 67.
And last week, Vienna Mayor Michael Haeupl mourned the loss of Frankl, saying, “Vienna, and the world, lost in Victor Frankl not only one of the most important scientists of this century but a monument to the spirit and the heart.”
You can’t read Viktor Frankl’s life story without pondering why it is that he was able to survive such incredible atrocities without embracing hatred and losing hope. And why he was able to go on to live such a full and rich life.
He was indeed a survivor.
Frankl himself noted, while in the concentration camps, that there were some people whose souls simply could not be destroyed.
It was there, where he was denied all freedom, that Frankl came to realize the one untouchable freedom that can never be taken away. That freedom, he said, is the ability “to choose one’s attitude in a given set of circumstances.”
There’s an enormous amount to be learned from Viktor Frankl, the man who firmly believed that we are capable of braving and surviving even the most terrible of situations. And what enables us to survive is the certain knowledge that our lives have meaning.
Meaning, says Frankl, can be found in three ways: “(1) by creating a work or doing a deed; (2) by experiencing something or encountering someone; and (3) by the attitude we take toward unavoidable suffering.”
A life without meaning is a life not worth living so think about Frankl’s teachings today. How can you find meaning–in the good times and the bad?
And as you answer the question, always remember the answer is within you.
Marie Snider is an award-winning health care writer and syndicated columnist.

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