Man's Search for Meaning

by Viktor Frankl

Published 1946

Not sure where to start with this one. I think I read this one because I saw it a few times on Reddit, and then again in a Huckberry email. I felt that enough people were recommending the book that it must have something significant to say to the modern experience. I wouldn't say that my own life is meaningless at the moment, but it's always good to see how other harvest meaning from their experience.

For that reason, I think that it was probably a worthwhile read to me. But I don't think that it resonated with me the way that it apparently does for others. It's clear from the reviews on Goodreads that this books has helped people decide what matters in their own lives. And I suppose I'm a little jealous of that.

But so what was the thesis of the book? I think that the premise is that life is full of suffering. And that the suffering of life can be mediated so long as we define some sort of meaning to the suffering. And, I think I understood, that the meaning has to be external to ourselves. A man whose wife had passed away, for example, was consoled by the fact that if he had passed away first, it would be his wife who was suffering his death; and so the meaning in his life was in saving his wife that suffering. Which, okay.

I understand where he's coming from. And I appreciate this perspective. But it seems, somehow, hollow. How to put this. I don't like that the lesson of the book is to cope with a lack of perspective by changing your perspective. Because of course it is. Does your life lack meaning? Apply a meaning to your life. Do you have a thinking problem? Think differently. Thanks I'm cured. It's not that it's an incorrect conclusion to come to—it just isn't substantial enough, to me.

Maybe I just have a problem with books that try to cure all of society's ills. Books like this or Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance seem to indicate that human misery can be alleviated through some sort of mental gymnastics—and it just can't. Perhaps some people can be persuaded that it can, for them. But I haven't found a one-size-fits-all cure. Which, maybe that's not the point. Maybe the perspective just has to work for enough people, and I'm not one of those people; I haven't found the right perspective for me just yet. I think I can accept that.


Week of 8 July

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