I picked up this book a couple years ago after seeing that it came highly recommended by many authors, bloggers and podcasters that I follow.
I realized straight away that it is one of those books that I did not want to read through quickly, so I took my time getting through it since it is so rich and full of wisdom.
Here are some quotes from the founder of logotherapy, that stuck with me:
The salvation of man is through love and in love.
Humor was another of soul’s weapons in the fight for self-preservation.
We were grateful for the smallest of mercies.
No man should judge unless he asks himself in absolute honesty whether in a similar situation he might not have done the same.
Suffering is an ineradicable part of life, even as fate and death. Without suffering and death human life cannot be complete. The way in which a man accepts his fate and all the suffering it entails, the way in which he takes up his cross, gives him ample opportunity – even under the most difficult circumstances – to add a deeper meaning to his life.
… often it is just such an exceptionally difficult external situation which gives man the opportunity to grow spiritually beyond himself. Instead of taking the camp’s difficulties as a test of their inner strength, they did not take their life seriously and despised it as something of no consequence. They preferred to close their eyes and to live in the past. Life for such people became meaningless.
It is a peculiarity of man that he can only live by looking to the future – sub specie aeternitatis.
We need to stop asking about the meaning of life, and instead to think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life – daily and hourly.
When a man finds that it is this destiny to suffer, he will have to accept his suffering as his task; his single and unique task.
Long ago we had passed the stage of asking what was the meaning of life, a naive query which understands life as the attaining of some aim through the active creation of something of value.
The immediate influence of behavior is always more effective than that of words.
Human kindness can be found in all groups, even those which as a whole it would be easy to condemn.
The rift dividing good from evil, which goes through all human beings, reaches into the lower depths and becomes apparent even on the bottom of the abyss which is laid open by the concentration camp.
Man’s search for meaning is the primary motivation in his life and not a “secondary rationalization” of instinctual drives. This meaning is unique and specific in that it must and can be fulfilled by him alone; only then does it achieve a significance which will satifsy his own will to meaning.
A man’s concern, even his despair, over the worthwhileness of life is an existential distress but by no means a mental disease.
What man actually needs is not a tensionless state but rather the striving and struggling for a worthwhile goal, a freely chosen task.
What matters, therefore, is not the meaning of life in general but rather the specific meaning of a person’s life at a given moment.
One should not search for an abstract meaning of life. Everyone has his own specific vocation or mission in life to carry out a concrete assignment which demands fulfillment.
The second way of finding a meaning in life is by experiencing something – such as goodness, truth and beauty – by experiencing nature and culture or, last but not least, by experiencing another human being is his very uniqueness – by loving him.
Furthermore, by his love, the loving person enables the beloved person to actualize these potentialities. By making him aware of what he can be and of what he should become, he makes these potentialities come true.
Man does not simply exist but always decides what his existence will be, what he will become in the next moment.
Man is capable of changing the world for better if possible, and of changing himself for the better if necessary.
For the world is in a bad state, but everything will become still worse unless each of us does his best.
Quotes from Viktor E. Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning