Get PJ Media on your Apple

PJM Lifestyle

Could You Find The Meaning Of Life Through The Stench Of Death?

With a new generation growing up in a culture that sends everyone home with a trophy, the relevance and lessons of Viktor E. Frankl's book Man's Search for Meaning are needed now more than ever.

by
Rhonda Robinson

Bio

October 13, 2013 - 8:00 am

DeathCamp

If you were to place a knife under your jaw and begin to slowly cut– with the intent of slitting your own throat, at some point before the deed was done your hand would stop. The searing pain, mingled with fear would make it physically impossible for you to continue–at least, unaided. Neither your physical body, nor your mind would allow you to continue on that unthinkable path.

So it is, when considering what it would be like, to lose a child. It’s simply impossible to accurately express the depth of that pain. There is a threshold, which your mind will not let you cross. Only by the blunt-force trauma of reality can that barrier be breached. Even then, the assault of reality must prove itself before the mind will allow that agony admittance.

In the same way, we are prohibited from truly grasping the atrocities suffered by the souls in the Auschwitz concentration camp. The mind simply will not permit us to grasp the sorrow of so many empty shoes.

In Viktor E. Frankl’s book Man’s Search for Meaning, the author, having survived Auschwitz, writes of his experience– not to record the atrocities, rather to answer the question as to why anyone at all would survive.

The preface to the 1992 edition explains:

“This book has now lived to see nearly one hundred printings in English–in addition to having been published in twenty-one other languages. And the English edition alone has sold more than three million copies.

These are the dry facts, and they may well be the reason why reporters of American newspapers and particularly of American TV stations more often than not start their interviews, after listing these facts, by exclaiming: ‘Dr. Frankl, your book has become a true bestseller– how do you feel about such a success?’ Where upon I react by reporting that in the first place I do not at all see in the bestseller status of my book an achievement and accomplishment on my part but rather an expression of the misery of our time: if hundreds of thousands of people reach out for a book whose very title promises to deal with the question of a meaning to life, it must be a question that burns under their fingernails.” [Emphasis mine]

Although the smoke from the Auschwitz crematorium has long ceased, evil still thrives in seats of power today. In the midst, is a new generation growing up in a culture that sends everyone home with a trophy. The relevance of Frankl’s work, and the lessons of the past may be the very thing missing to change the future.

You are cordially invited to walk with me over the next few Sundays, as we explore Man’s Search for Meaning.

Frankl

Rhonda Robinson writes on the social, political and parenting issues currently shaping the American family. She lives with her husband and teenage daughter in Middle Tennessee. www.amotherslife.me Follow on twitter @amotherslife

Comments are closed.

All Comments   (6)
All Comments   (6)
Sort: Newest Oldest Top Rated
I'm glad to see this topic being discussed, as "Life is not primarily a quest for pleasure, as Freud believed, or a quest for power, as Alfred Adler taught, but a quest for meaning."

The difference between the victims of Auschwitz and every other person who has ever lived is actually much less significant than it may, at first, appear.
Each and every one of us will inevitably be forced to let go of all of our material possessions, all of the people we love, our health and eventually our lives. The holocaust, atrocious as it undeniably is, merely forced these eventualities to happen all at once for its victims.
This is why the question of higher meaning is so important for everyone.

Such a perspective has profound implications for each of us. As Ernest Becker wrote:
"taking life seriously means something such as this: that whatever man does on this planet has to be done in the lived truth of the terror of creation, of the grotesque, of the rumble of panic underneath everything. Otherwise it is false."

Thanks for taking on this topic, I look forward to following along!
37 weeks ago
37 weeks ago Link To Comment
Thank you for your encouragement.

"The difference between the victims of Auschwitz and every other person who has ever lived is actually much less significant than it may, at first, appear.
Each and every one of us will inevitably be forced to let go of all of our material possessions, all of the people we love, our health and eventually our lives. The holocaust, atrocious as it undeniably is, merely forced these eventualities to happen all at once for its victims.
This is why the question of higher meaning is so important for everyone. "

You wrote my very thoughts as I reflected today.

Also, you might like to know, that at the suggestion of another reader the next series will be of Becker's writing.
37 weeks ago
37 weeks ago Link To Comment
You do it again. You will give me no peace. Your last series, as you well know, inspired my repeated interventions in the comments. Inspiration is great, but it can be stressful for, afterall, examining myself is an uneasy task. And your last series brought me to evaluate my own attitudes. I read Fankl in my "foolish" youth, found him great, but, being the pessimistic Germanophope that I am, I could not cope so positively as Frankl. Marcel Reich-Raniki, former pope of German criticism, was a German-Polish-Jew who lost his family and concluded that God was a German, exactly because of causing the collection of Jewsih shoes such as shown above. What is mightier than UNcreation and might is a property of God. Oh, I am getting ahead of the game.

The photo you show is not new for me. I have seen it many times in context with a camera panning a collection of Jewish possessions, in one case ending with a carrying case with the printed name of a female whose last name was Kafka. Though of no relation to Franz Kafka, it effected me disasterously as I have taught some courses on Kafka's often confusing works. If my literaritly beloved Kafka had been alive, his things would have been there!!! This effects me profoundly. We will have to talk about H. Gorecki, a marvelous Polish composer, who, as a young man, not only smelt the stench of Auschwitz (he lived nearby), but was forced by his teachers as a young boy to walk upon the pathway between the barracks, a pathway made entirely of Jewish bones. The Nazies allowed no inmate to forget, even for a moment, death. The walking upon the bones of death formed and malformed Gorecki's life, but it did help produce his mass "Miserere" and more (to be mentioned later).
40 weeks ago
40 weeks ago Link To Comment
Desdemona, Great idea, I think I may just get the ebook as well so I can have it with me to snatch a few lines whenever I can.

Thanks Dave, I'm really looking forward to it.
40 weeks ago
40 weeks ago Link To Comment
Rhonda, This is a great book that deserves to be rediscovered, and Frankl was a great man. The book is available as an ebook, for those who would like to get hold of it quickly.
40 weeks ago
40 weeks ago Link To Comment
She's really off to a great start with this new series!
40 weeks ago
40 weeks ago Link To Comment
View All