I’m kind of addicted to self-help books. I know that they don’t ‘work’ for some people, but I devour them. I’m on a mission to read all of the classics in the field, and I’ve made a good dent in the list so far…some of them are amazing, others are not worthy of their reputation.
Yesterday I finished one that rightly deserve all of its praise, Man’s Search For Meaning by Viktor Frankl (1946). Stellar. Some of it is psychology babble, but the meat of the short book is incredibly memorable.
The gist of is that Frankl was a Holocaust survivor who details his experiences…but in a positive way. He doesn’t focus on the misery he suffered (though he mentions it). Instead he discusses how amazing it is that people could go through the horror and STILL find hope, faith, and meaning in life. He lost his wife, mother, father, and all of his siblings to the gas chambers. All of his possessions were destroyed, including the only manuscript of his life’s work. Yet, he made it.
Death would certainly have been preferable to the hell of the concentration camp, but millions dealt with it honorably, proudly, and with a purpose. How did they ever manage? It’s humbling, especially when I consider the tiny worries that I allow to weigh me down on a daily basis.
In other words, the fact that human beings were capable of creating these awful camps is not as surprising as the fact that other humans were capable of induring it with strength.
The famous last paragraph sums it up beautifully…
“We have come to know man as he really is. 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 Shema Yisrael on his lips.”
Try this one. It is short, I promise.