“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.
In a position of utter desolation, when man cannot express himself in positive action, when his only achievement may consist in enduring his sufferings in the right way—an honorable way—in such a position man can, through loving contemplation of the image he carries of his beloved, achieve fulfillment.
For the first time in my life I was able to understand the meaning of the words, “The angels are lost in perpetual contemplation of an infinite glory.”
(from Man’s Search for Meaning. p. 38)
… and this was first thought while suffering unbelievably hard conditions in a German concentration camp during World War II. The author was slogging through icy mud in the middle of the night, but was sustained by thoughts of his wife, then in another camp.
When I was in graduate school, I was “encouraged” to read about the great men of psychotherapy, so names like Freud, Adler, Jung, Skinner, Watson, Beck, Rogers, and Ellis became familiar to me.
All were interesting, but one stood out, because of his modest, but powerful message.
Viktor Frankl conveyed more about the human spirit and what we are capable of enduring and overcoming in a few small books than many others who produced many volumes.
Here’s another example of Frankl’s thinking:
“Freedom, however, is not the last word. Freedom is only part of the story and half of the truth. Freedom is but the negative aspect of the whole phenomenon whose positive aspect is responsibleness. In fact, freedom is in danger of degenerating into mere arbitrariness unless it is lived in terms of responsibleness. “
From Statue of Responsibility “If freedom is to endure, liberty must be joined with responsibility.” by Caleb Warnock, in the Daily Herald on May 8, 2005, p. A1.
Click here for a video clip of Frankl talking to a group about his basic themes – ignore the quality and listen to the words and the tone.
If this sparks your curiosity, I have two reading suggestions for you below. Not Frankl’s only works, but the most important, in my judgment. Both are short, but well worth the cost and the time to absorb them:
Happy Birthday, Dr. Frankl … and thanks for the inspirations.
Remembering one of the Great Ones in the Heartland ….
Photograph of Dr. Viktor Frankl by Prof. Dr. Franz Vesely(1965)