“Man’s Search for Meaning” by Viktor E. Frankl. (1959)
“Thus the illusions some of us still held were destroyed one by one, and then quite unexpectedly, most of us were overcome by a grim sense of humor. We knew that we had noting to lose except our so ridiculously naked lives”.
In a way, both Frankl’s survival of the holocaust and his subsequent self devised branch of psychoactive treatment; “logo-therapy” can both be condensed into one central aspect of existence; “He who has a why can bear almost almost any how”.
In the the deepest despair of death, torture and misery, Frankl finds the tools for selftransformation. He becomes stripped down the the most fundamental aspect of existence. All that connected him to the past is lost, the future is most certainly imminent death; there is truly nothing left, but the totality of the now.
But in the midst of suffering, Frankl still finds choice to be the one thing the guards can take from him. The choice to act morally, to not fall into depression - at some points the choice to continue living. With Nietzsches immortal words “Was much nicht umbrings, macht much stärker” (That which does not kills me, makes me stronger.) the prisoners managed to stay intact. Life had meaning, and never ceased to. Even in the face of suffering and dying, privation and death, they kept their courage as well as their dignity.
Although this book mediates about death, it is ultimately about the affirmation of life. Of saying “yes” to life, even in the bleakest of circumstances. This requires an understanding of human suffering as being absolutely relative, thus the art of living can be practiced even in a concentration camp.
Frankl left Auschwitz, not as a prisoner - because he never truly was one - but more free then ever before. He found meaning in a vacuum and in the process discovered how inseparable the health of the human psyche is from our subjective understanding of existentialism.