Redefining human achievement

Viktor Frankl

A favorite quote of Frankl’s was from Nietzsche, “He who has a why to

live can bear with almost any how.” The most poignant bits of this classic

are Frankl’s recollections of the thoughts that gave him the will to

live. Mental images of his wife provided the only light in the dark days of

the concentration camp, and there is a beautiful scene when he is thinking

of her with such intensity that when a bird hops on to a mound in

front of him, it appears to be her living embodiment. He also imagined

himself after liberation in lecture halls, telling people about what must

never happen again. This proved to be prophetic. Finally, there was the

desire to jot down notes remembered from his lost manuscript.

The men who had given up, in contrast, could be recognized

because they smoked their last cigarettes, which could otherwise have

been traded for a scrap of food. These men had decided that life held

nothing more for them. Yet this thinking struck Frankl as a terrible

mistake. We are not here to judge life according to what we expected

from it and what it has delivered. Rather, he realized, we must find the

courage to ask what life expects of us, day by day. Our task is not

merely to survive, but to find the guiding truth specific to us and our

situation, which can sometimes only be revealed in the worst suffering.

Indeed, Frankl says that “rather than being a symptom of neurosis, suffering

may well be a human achievement.”

By Motivationaltalks [Felix Massinda]


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