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The freedom to think and imagine is a gift that is unique to humans in the universe of living organisms. Dr. Viktor E Frankl describes this extraordinary capability as the ‘last of the human freedoms’ which can propel us towards change, a better life and a better society. The entire philosophy around this valuable attitude of the mind dawned on Dr. Frankl while suffering Nazi cruelties in a Concentration Camp and losing his parents, brother and wife in the Holocaust. Man’s Search for Meaning is a book born out of that experience, first published in Germany in 1946, and has inspired countless generations since. A short extract…

Man's Search for Meaning
Author: Victor E Frankl
Publisher: Rider & Co.
Pages: 160
Rs. 299

I doubt whether a doctor can answer this question in general terms. For the meaning of life differs from man to man, from day to day and from hour to hour. What matters therefore is not the meaning of life in general but rather the specific meaning of a person’s life at a given moment. To put the question in general terms would be comparable to the question posed to a chess champion, ‘Tell me Master, what is the best move in the world?’ There is simply no such thing as the best or even a good move apart from a particular situation in a game and the particular personality of one’s opponent. The same holds for human existence. One should not search for an abstract meaning of life. Everyone has his own specific vocation or mission in life to carry out a concrete assignment which demands fulfillment. Therein he cannot be replaced, nor can his life be repeated. Thus, everyone’s task is as unique as is his specific opportunity to implement it.

As each situation in life represents a challenge to man and presents a problem for him to solve, the question of the meaning of life may actually be reversed. Ultimately, man should not ask what the meaning of his life is, but rather he must recognise 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. Thus, logotherapy sees in responsibleness the very essence of human existence.

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