Thank you to everyone for your kind wishes on my last post and other platforms. It’s truly encouraging. 💛
Resurfacing for a moment, I have some quotes to share from the newly published Yes to Life: In Spite of Everything. It’s the first English translation of some lectures by Viktor Frankl, psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor, most known for his book Man’s Search for Meaning.
Later I’d like to film a video with my comments, but for now, here are some things he said that—at the risk of waxing dramatic—I’m turning over in my very soul. Some are things that resonate with me immediately, others are profound question marks that nag and challenge. For context: Frankl was writing this in the mid-1940s, while trying to return to “normal” life in the aftermath of unimaginable pain and loss of his loved ones.
On action and activism
. . . if there is a fundamental difference between the way people perceived the world around them in the past and the way they perceive it at present, then it is perhaps best identified as follows: in the past, activism was coupled with optimism, while today activism requires pessimism. (p. 24)
That which is actualized is also much more effective. Words alone are not enough. (p. 27)
On life as something other than the pursuit of happiness
So, life is somehow duty, a single, huge obligation . . . Happiness should not, must not, and can never be a goal, but only an outcome . . . (p. 32)
. . . it is not we who are permitted to ask about the meaning of life—it is life that asks the questions, directs questions at us—we are the ones who are questioned! (p. 33)
Whether a life is fulfilled doesn’t depend on how great one’s range of action is, but rather only on whether the circle [of one’s influence and impact] is filled out. (p. 36)
On whether life without children has meaning
We can answer: either a life, an individual life, has meaning . . . or this individual life, the life of an individual person, does not have meaning—then it could never acquire meaning merely by seeking to “immortalize” itself by procreation. Because immortalizing something that is inherently “meaningless” is itself meaningless. (p. 44)
On comparing your suffering with someone else’s
And in spite of everything, no human suffering can be compared to anyone else’s because it is part of the nature of suffering that it is the suffering of a particular person, that it is his or her own suffering—that its “magnitude” is dependent solely on the sufferer . . . a person’s solitary suffering is just as unique and individual as is every person. (p. 100)
On collective guilt
. . . we have to differentiate between collective guilt and collective liability . . . If I suddenly get appendicitis, is it my fault? Certainly not; and yet, if I have to have an operation, what then? I will nevertheless owe the fee for the operation to the doctor who operated on me. That is, I am “liable” for the settlement of the doctor’s bill. So “liability without guilt” definitely exists. (p. 102)