This first day of summer vacation seemed like a good opportunity to go back to a book I once read over twenty years ago. What better book to read as my first summer reading, than Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl. With over 15 million copies in print and listed as one of the most influential books of all time, it seemed like a great place to start a summer book list. Though our world would appear to be falling apart in front of our eyes, these words from concentration camp survivor, Fankl reminds me that despite the worst circumstances, there is hope.
Here are some of my favorite quotes from today’s reading of this great book:
“…there are two races of men in this world, but only these two – the ‘race’ of the decent man and the ‘race’ of the indecent man. Both are found everywhere; they penetrate into all groups of society. No groups consist entirely of decent or indecent people.” (pg 86)
“…man’s main concern is not to gain pleasure or to avoid pain but rather to see a meaning in his life. That is why man is even ready to suffer, on the condition, to be sure, that his suffering has a meaning.” (pg 113)
“Freedom, however, is not the last word. Freedom is only part of the story and half of the truth…freedom is in danger of degenerating into mere arbitrariness unless it is lived in terms of responsibleness. That is why I recommend that the Statue of Liberty on the East Coast be supplemented by a Statue of Responsibility on the West Coast.” (pg 132)
“Man has both potentialities within himself; which one is actualized depends on decisions but not on conditions…after all, man is that being who invented the gas chambers of Auschwitz; however he is also that being who entered those gas chambers upright, with the Lord’s Prayer or the Schema Yisrael on his lips.” (pg 134)
During the four years that Victor Frankl suffered unimaginable cruelty and persecution in four different Nazi concentration camps, he learned what it meant to suffer well and live life on purpose despite his circumstances. There is much that we as Christ followers can learn from the experiences of Frankl.
What are you living for? What is your purpose? Is it in the things of this world that are temporary – or do we have a greater purpose for our lives? Are we living for Christ and loving others well? During these days of pandemic, division and unrest – there is much to learn in this book from one who has experienced far more suffering than I probably ever will. May we learn from those who have gone before us so we don’t repeat the mistakes of our past.