Man’s Search for Meaning

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.

Keep in Mind re: campaigns

Most people are interested in politics only during campaign season.  That causes problems.  It skews the average citizen’s perception of politicians.  It is what creates the impression that most politicians are scumbags, soundrels, and fools.

Consider this:  The whole purpose of a campaign on both sides is to make the other person look awful.  In the end then, both sides DO look awful.  But that doesn’t mean that they really ARE awful.  It is easy to create a false impression.  Too easy.

Think of two of your friends.  Pretend that they got into an argument and starting yelling in each other’s face, screaming about the worst of each other.  If all you ever knew about them was that argument, you probably wouldn’t think too highly of either.

Keep that in mind over the next few months.  Both Barack Obama and John McCain are impressive men and honorable Americans.

Hallelujah

I am astounded by this song; it seems like everyone is these days.

I can’t say exactly why. Maybe its because it makes you think about your own worries in a movie-montage way. Like we are just 20 minutes and a few plot developments from everything being resolved and striding away better, stronger, and happier. It is sad, but not a permanent sad. At least that is what goes on in my head when I hear it.

A lot has been written about it. Here is a pretty awesome history of the song and its development.

There are dozens of covers, first composed and recorded by bizarre performer Leonard Cohen. Here is his version:

Not so pretty, right? But others have been pretty. Here is a ranking of my (current) top 3 versions of this song…in descending order…

NUMBER 3:

Rufus Wainright. This is the first version I heard. It sticks with you.

NUMBER 2:

Imogen Heap. Very simple. Spooky.

NUMBER 1:

k.d. lang. I’m blown away by the emotion. She is enveloped by it. A knockout. To be honest, I haven’t heard anything even close to as good as this. Absolutely amazing.

You have favorites?