Last weekend I was at a friend’s new apartment. She has been downsizing for awhile and each phase brings a more precise distillation of what matters to her. On her two shelves of “keeper” books, I saw a copy of Viktor Frankl’s, Man’s Search for Meaning. This book is on our shelf here too, and it has been for decades - except of course when it’s being read. The copy we have is one my father gave to my husband when we were young, before we even had children if I remember right.
As a prisoner in a World War II German prison camp, Frankl realized that his survival and that of his co-prisoners depended on their ability to claim meaning exactly where they were. Frankl found this “will to meaning” was something each prisoner needed to muster as if his life depended on it. No alternative place of passion or bliss or even minimal satisfaction awaited their transfer. What’s more, he found that the meaning claimed needed to be anchored in the future. Prisoners lost their spiritual hold on the present when they lost sight of the future.
My point of view in Finding Livelihood resonates with Frankl’s. Losing sight of what lies beyond the work-a-day world, in terms of unseen reality, boundless and timeless, means losing your daily spiritual hold, means finding that only the is-this-all-there-is question remains. Without drawing a line too darkly between life in a prison camp and life on the job or life at any other daily post, I think the modern worker or modern person at any stage of life can learn much from Frankl.
[Photo: taken of the cover of our copy of a 1962? edition of Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning. Isn’t it great that the sky is framed?]