I was imagining if I were one of those people imprisoned in Auschwitz, what would have I done? Would have I been able to survive the suffering I could have endured, especially the nerve-racking fear of the gas chamber? I think I wouldn’t have because I would have been chosen to be ushered into the right path;they would have found me physically and politically useless, inferior , or undesirable (unless they would have taken into consideration my passion for epistemology) : I am a wee bit skinny-boned and hard-hearing. The SS, a unit of Nazis in charge of the mass extermination, would have given me a distaste look and hit in my flat abdomen. Ugh, what a miserable life species I would have been! But lo and behold, Victor Frankl said that the meaning of life is found in every moment of living; life never ceases to have meaning, even in suffering and death. So, my death would not have been nothing; it would have been meaningful. Not that I know of.
Victor Frankl , a Viennese psychiatrist and neurologist, recounted the heart-twitching memories he had experienced in Auschwitz. Therein lied the indelibly abject miseries he went through with other inmates under the SS, of how he suffered a lot in the camp with a meager of food and water, of how he brought himself to sleep with other inmates in one bed that was inhabited by mites aplenty, soaked with pee and dung, in a shirt that was almost tattered and rugged. And the throat-slashing one was the uncertainty, having no idea of when an inmate could be locked up and immolated in the gas chamber… Indeed, a person like me living in this generation does not have the atom of imagination of how Frankl’ s life was a total hell.
From the beginning to the end of his historical accounts, the leitmotif that bore down on me is the gas chamber.( As a matter of fact, I dreamed about it before after reading Anne Frank’s Diary , of how she ended up in that place.) Whenever Frankl described the story and explained the idiosyncratic behavioral patterns of his inmates, I could not take off my mind the chamber which every inmate at that time feared most. I didn’t mind the imaginary descriptions and illustrations of how those inmates were starved to death, malnourished and thirsty for clean water, pica for nonnutritious food, living with gangrenes as long as the chamber would not be mentioned. Like Frankl’s fellow inmates, I also tended to be paranoid about it imagining how people found inferior died inside that big room. What a hair-raising and heartbreaking scene it could have been!
Aside from his experiences in a concentration camp , Frankl also included in this book his discussion about logotherapy in a nutshell and the case for a tragic optimism.
When Frankl was in the different concentration camps, he observed not only himself but also his inmates how they would react to such a hellhole. Most of them became hopeless, apathetic, bitter, disillusioned. Some were suicidal. Eventually, using his background in medicine, he came up with logotherapy to help some of them survive. In this therapy, a patient is helped to find the meaning of his/ her life as the primary motivational force. It focuses on the future, on the meanings a patient wants to fulfill in the future.
Before I just had the idea that life is a question of existentialism, but logotherapy dawned upon me that we can discover this meaning in life in three different ways: (1)by creating a work or doing a deed; (2)by experiencing something or encountering someone; and (3) by the attitude we take toward un avoidable suffering.( p.133)
What caught my interest was the real meaning of existentialism which I took to when I studied psychology. I was enlightened when Frankl clearly discussed that the term “ existential” may be used in three ways to refer to : (1) existence itself; (2) the meaning of existence; and (3)the striving to find the concrete meaning in personal existence, that is to say, the will to meaning. ( p.123)
The last part discusses the real meaning of a “ tragic optimism”. In brief it means that one is, and remains, optimistic in spite of the “ tragic triad,” such as pain , guilt, and death.
The most important thing that I have learned , proved in effect, is that LOVE indeed is the most powerful emotional element in the universe. This is the last resort a man in dire can turn to , aside from God he/she believes in ( but I don’t ) , in order to survive.
Since it is a memoir focusing on the concept of logotherapy, the book is not as ambitious as other famous ones. I wonder if it could be a hit should it have been written like a novel.
For the third time, I have failed to catch my dream: to study in graduate school. I missed it due to some personal reasons. I have been so depressed that I might never be interested in it anymore.To protect my ego from this soul-devastating frustration, I thought that I might just spend my life reading the books I have been storing for a long time or writing short stories I have always wanted to do . However, I still can’t get over this ambitious fiasco. Sometimes, I blame myself for not being a risk taker. Nevertheless, this book has reminded me of my favorite philosophy that life is a matter of choice; I am responsible for the life I want to choose.
” He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.” – Friedrich Nietzsche-
Rating: 3/ 5 ( I liked it.)