Eternal Hope

(Review on Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl)

Frankl’s narrative brings me face to face with Nazi concentration camp: the abhorring degradation of fellow human beings, mass murdering, barbaric treatment of prisoners. Yet, human souls were able to seek comfort in natural beauty in such unbearable existence. Ultimately the book is about triumph, particularly spiritual triumph despite all the suffering one went through. If a person can emerge from such experience: being stripped naked, taken away all possessing, being beaten and starved, doing harsh labor in the bitter winter, facing arbitrary death in every moment, later learned that his parents and wife were all killed in gas chamber, but coming out compassionate, forgiving and becoming a successful doctor and author (publishing 30 books afterwards), how can we not marvel at human resilience?

The eventual survival of Frankl may be due to luck (not boarding the last train), his own social smart (avoiding offending prison guards, befriending the foremen), and kindness from fellow prisoners (extra bread saved, joint escape attempt). But it also crucially depended on his spiritual strength and holding on to the final hope. He called this search of “meaning of suffering”. By assigning meaning to his suffering,  he then would not fall prey to bitter disappointment when liberation did come at an expected date, while a fellow prisoner lost hope and died. In other words, Frankl found a way to maintain eternal hope. It is this hope enables him to stand strong despite any suffering or disappointment.

In the last chapter,  Frankl offered an invaluable explanation on logotherapy. Its methodology is enlightening, much similar to what Anthony Robbins has preached all along in his seminar. Humans need “meaningful goals” to feel happy.

Each of us goes through life with unique experience. No one can repeat that experience for us. Even our suffering is unique. Thus the meaning of our life is put upon us instead of us searching for it. It is how we answer life, in our unique way.

The bare truth of concentration camp, the honesty and the compassion deeply touches me. There is no self pity or hatred. Instead you experience a deep sense of beauty in this writing. All you feel is a much larger understanding for human existence and the ultimate triumph of human spirit.

How can we feel despair when men endured and survived concentration camp? Even if the world problem is daunting, Frankl said, “the world may be in a bad state, but everything will become worse unless each of us does his best”. As horrible as Nazi concentration camp is, Frankl lived to tell the story, to share his experience. All those who died did not die in vain. Ultimately good and justice, and human spirits triumph in this world.

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