What is to give light must endure burning.
“For too long we have been dreaming a dream from which we are now waking up: the dream that if we just improve the socioeconomic situation of people, everything will be okay, people will become happy. The truth is that as the struggle for survival has subsided, the question has emerged: survival for what? Ever more people today have the means to live, but no meaning to live for.” — Viktor E. Frankl, “The Unheard Cry for Meaning”
“..the true meaning of life is to be discovered in the world rather than within man or his own psyche, as if it were a closed system.” — (MSM p. 133).
“What man is, he ultimately becomes through the cause which he has made his own.”
“The more the man aims at pleasure by way of direct intention, the more he misses his aim”. — (PAE, p. 21)
“Our generation has come to know man as he really is: the being that has invented the gas chambers of Auschwitz, and also the being who entered those gas chambers upright, the Lord’s Prayer or the Shema Yisrael on his lips.” — “Psychotherapy and Existentialism.”
“Sigmund Freud once said, ‘Let us attempt to expose a number of most diverse people uniformly to hunger. With the increase of the imperative urge of hunger all individual differences will blur, and in their stead will appear the uniform expression of the one unstilled urge.’ In the concentration camps, however, the reverse was true. People became more diverse. The beast was unmasked — and so was the saint. The hunger was the same but people were different. In truth, calories do not count.” — (MSM, p. 52)
“For too long we have been dreaming a dream from which we are now waking up: the dream that if we just improve the socioeconomic situation of people, everything will be okay, people will become happy. The truth is that as the struggle for survival has subsided, the question has emerged: survival for what? Ever more people today have the means to live, but no meaning to live for” — UCM , p. 21
“In the concentration camp,…in this living laboratory and on this testing ground, we watched and witnessed some of our comrades behave like swine while others behaved like saints. Man has both potentials within himself; which one is actualized depends on decisions but not on conditions” (p. 157).
“He who has a why to live for can bear with almost any how.” If one understands the “why” of one’s existence, one will be able to cope with the “how,” no matter how impossible that would seem. Understanding the “why” simply meant that people could find a meaning in their sufferings, and even probable death. “It can be said that they were worthy of their sufferings; the way they bore their suffering was a genuine inner achievement. It is this spiritual freedom — which cannot be taken away — that makes life meaningful and purposeful” — Frankl quotes Nietzsche (p. 87).
“Under the influence of a world which no longer recognized the value of human life and human dignity, which had robbed man of his will and had made him an object to be exterminated (having planned, however, to make use of him first — to the last ounce of his physical resources) — under this influence the personal ego finally suffered a loss of values. If the man in the concentration camp did not struggle against this in a last effort to save his self-respect, he lost the feeling of being an individual, a being with a mind, with inner freedom and personal value” — (p.70).
“..for the first time in my life I saw the truth as it is set into songs by so many poets, proclaimed as the final wisdom by so many thinkers. The truth is that love is the ultimate and the highest goal to which man can aspire. Then I grasped the meaning of the greatest secret that human poetry and human thought and belief have to impart: The salvation of man is through love and in love. I understood how a man who has nothing left in this world still may know bliss, be it only for a brief moment, in the contemplation of his beloved.”- (p. 57; Frankl).
“In my own mind, I am convinced that I owe my survival, among other things, to my resolve to reconstruct my manuscript. I started to work on it when I was sick with typhus and tried to keep awake, even at night, to prevent a vascular collapse. For my 40th birthday an inmate had given me a pencil stub and “organized” a few small SS-forms. On their empty backs, still having high fever, I scribbled shorthand notes which I hoped would help me reconstruct the Ärztlische Seelsorge.”
“As early as 1929 I developed the concept of 3 groups of values, three possibilities to find meaning in life — up to the last moment, the last breath. These three possibilities are: 1) a deed we do, a work we create, 2) an experience, a human encounter and love, and 3) when confronted with an unchangeable fate (such as an incurable disease, an inoperable cancer) a change of attitudes. In such cases we still can wrest meaning from life by becoming witness of the most human of all human capacities: the ability to turn suffering into human triumph.” — Meaning… What is it? In his Autobiography (RCL)
“being human always points, and is directed, to something, or someone, other than oneself — be it a meaning to fulfill or another human being to encounter…. The more one forgets himself — by giving himself to a cause to serve, or another person to love — the more human he is and the more he actualizes himself.”
“By its very nature this ultimate meaning exceeds man’s limited intellectual capacity. In contrast to those existential writers who declare that man has to stand the ultimate absurdity of being human, it is my contention that man has to stand only his incapacity to grasp the ultimate meaning on intellectual grounds. Man is only called upon to decide between the alternatives of ‘ultimate absurdity or ultimate meaning’ on existential grounds, through the mode of existence which he chooses. In the ‘How’ of existence, I would say, lies the answer to the question for its ‘Why.’ Thus the ultimate meaning is no longer a matter of intellectual cognition but the existential commitment. One might as well say that a meaning can be understood but that the ultimate meaning must be interpreted.’ — (PAS, p. 46)
In 1979–80 I spent a year in Germany doing research at a university. Every day, at about 5 P.M., I heard a knock on my office door and an elderly lady janitor entered with a broad smile and a “Guten Abend, Herr Professor.” Then she began her daily routine: cleaning my office. She knew that her job was extremely important, for without it, we, the “egg-heads” of the fifth floor, would perish in the dirt and disorder of our offices. She lifted every single sheet of paper on my desk and dusted beneath. Whatever papers were scattered around were carefully piled up and secured on the desk corner. I did not speak German, she did not speak English, but we both knew that what she was doing was important. Of course I could live without the daily dusting of my papers; she could not. And I agreed with her. From the existential point of
view we — “the egg-heads” in the offices around, and herself — were equal: we each did the work we loved and believed to be important. And, whenever a party was held she was always a part of it: a loved and respected member of the fifth floor community…
“…people who know no goal in life are running the course of life at the highest possible speed so that they will not notice the aimlessness of it. They are at the same time trying to run away from themselves — but in vain. On Sunday, when the frantic race pauses for twenty-four hours, all the aimlessness, meaninglessness, and emptiness of their existence rises up before them once more.” — (DAS, p. 127)
“Sex is justified, even sanctified, as soon as, but only as long as, it is a vehicle of love. Thus love is not understood as a mere side-effect of sex: rather, sex is a way of expressing the experience of the ultimate togetherness which is called love.” — (MSM, p. 134)
“Loving represents a coming to a relationship with another as a spiritual being. The close connection with spiritual aspects of the partner is the ultimate attainable form of partnership. The lover is no longer aroused in his own physical being, nor stirred in his own emotionality, but moved to the depths of his spiritual core, moved by the partner’s spiritual core. Love, then, is an entering into direct relationship with the personality of the beloved, with the beloved’s uniqueness and singularity.” — Discussing the meaning of love (DAS, p. 135)
“Like any kind of inflation — e.g., that on the monetary market — sexual inflation is associated with a devaluation: sex is devaluated inasmuch as it is dehumanized. Thus we observe a trend to living a sexual life that is not integrated into one’s personal life, but rather is lived out for the sake of pleasure. such a depersonalization of sex is a symptom of existential frustration: the frustration of man’s search for meaning.” — (UCM, p. 93)
“We have seen that there exists not only a will to pleasure and a will to power but also a will to meaning. Now we see further: We have not only the possibility of giving a meaning to our life by creative acts and beyond that by the experience of Truth, Beauty, and Kindness, of Nature, Culture, and human beings in their uniqueness and individuality, and of love; we have not only the possibility of making life meaningful by creating and loving, but also by suffering — so that when we can no longer change our fate by action, what matters is the right attitude towards fate.” — “Psychotherapy and Existentialism” (PAE)
“Here lies a chance for a man either to make use or to forgo the opportunities of attaining the moral values that a difficult situation may afford him. And this decides whether he is worthy of his sufferings or not.” — In “Man’s Search for Meaning” (MSM p. 88)
“When a man finds that it is his destiny to suffer, he will have to accept his suffering as his task; his single and unique task. He will have to acknowledge the fact that even in suffering he is unique and alone in the universe. No one can relieve him of his suffering or suffer in his place. His unique opportunity lies in the way in which he bears his burden” — In “Man’s Search for Meaning” (MSM p. 99)
F.: “What would have happened, Doctor, if you had died first, and your wife would have had to survive you?”
P.: “Oh, for her this would have been terrible; how she would have suffered!”
F.: “You see, Doctor, such a suffering has been spared of her, and it was you who have spared her this
suffering — to be sure, at the price that now you have to survive and mourn her,”
Frankl concludes: “He said no word but shook my hand and calmly left my office. In some way, suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds a meaning, such as the meaning of sacrifice” — Frankl relates his conversation with a patient, a physician, who could not overcome the loss of his wife, whom he loved above everything in the world. Two years had passed since the death, but the patient’s depression would not subside. (MSM, p. 135)
“I have found true meaning in my existence even here, in prison. I find purpose in my life, and this time I have left is just a short wait for the opportunity to do better and to do more.” Another letter: “During the past several months a
group of inmates has been sharing your books and your tapes. Yes, one of the greatest meanings we can be privileged to experience is suffering. I have just begun to live, and what a glorious feeling it is! I am constantly humbled by the tears of my brothers in our group when they can see that they are even now achieving meanings they never thought possible. The changes are truly miraculous. Lives which heretofore have been hopeless and helpless now have meaning. … From the barbed wire and chimney of Auschwitz rises the sun… My, what a new day must be in store.” — Frankl quotes two letters from inmates of American (Florida) prisons, “The Unheard Cry For Meaning” (UCM, p. 47)
“…as a psychiatrist, or rather a psychotherapist, I see beyond the actual weaknesses… I can see beyond the misery of the situation, the possibility to discover a meaning behind it, and thus to turn an apparently meaningless life into a genuine human achievement. I am convinced that, in the final analysis, there is no situation which does not contain the seed of meaning. To a great extent, this conviction is the basis of logotherapy’s subject and system.” — (RCL).
(DAS, p. 139): “We must never be content with what has already been achieved. Life never ceases to put new questions to us, never permits us to come to rest. Only self-narcotization keeps us insensible to the eternal pricks with which life with its endless succession of demands stings our conscience. The man who stands still is passed by; the man who is smugly contented loses himself. Neither in creating nor experiencing may we rest content with achievement; every day, every hour makes deeds necessary and new experiences possible.”
…, the greatest philosopher, Immanuel Kant, had no children; but would anyone venture to doubt the extraordinary maningfulness of his life? If children were the only menaing of life-life would be meaningless because to procreate something which in itself is meaningless would certainly be the most meaningless thing. What matters in life is rather to achieve something.
“Ultimately, man should not ask what the meaning of his life is, but rather must recognize that it is he who is asked. In a word, each man is questioned by life; and he can only answer to life by answering for his own life; to life he can only respond by being responsible.”
“What is to give light must endure burning.”
Everyone has his own specific vocation or mission in life; everyone must carry out a concrete assignment that demands fulfilment. Therein he cannot be replaced, nor can his life be repeated, thus, everyone’s task is unique as his specific opportunity to implement it.
“A man who becomes conscious of the responsibility he bears toward a human being who affectionately waits for him, or to an unfinished work, will never be able to throw away his life. He knows the “why” for his existence, and will be able to bear almost any “how.”
“Again and again I therefore admonish my students in Europe and America: Don’t aim at success — the more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side effect of one’s personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one’s surrender to a person other than oneself. Happiness must happen, and the same holds for success: you have to let it happen by not caring about it. I want you to listen to what your conscience commands you to do and go on to carry it out to the best of your knowledge. Then you will live to see that in the long-run — in the long-run, I say! — success will follow you precisely because you had forgotten to think about it.”
“We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
“We must never be content with what has already been achieved. Life never ceases to put new questions to us, never permits us to come to rest. Only self-narcotization keeps us insensible to the eternal pricks with which life with its endless succession of demands stings our conscience. The man who stands still is passed by; the man who is smugly contented loses himself. Neither in creating nor experiencing may we rest content with achievement; every day, every hour makes deeds necessary and new experiences possible.”