Michaelis: In Spite of Everything

Posted 7/27/20

I continue to be inspired by the writings of Viktor Frankl. I recently acquired his newest book called Yes to Life - In Spite of Everything. It is the translation of lectures given within a year of …

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Michaelis: In Spite of Everything

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I continue to be inspired by the writings of Viktor Frankl. I recently acquired his newest book called Yes to Life - In Spite of Everything. It is the translation of lectures given within a year of his release from Auschwitz. It was first published in German in 1946 and then largely forgotten. It has now, in 2020, been republished in English; it could not be more timely! How is it possible that a man can say yes to life after losing everything; his pregnant wife, his parents, other relatives, friends - everything? It is embarrassing to compare our situation today compared to his tragedy, but Frankl survived, thrived and left a life philosophy that is worth repeating. His first book, Man’s Search for Meaning, recounts the story of his imprisonment at Auschwitz and the horrors that he and other prisoners endured. But it also shed light on the difference between those that perished and those that managed to survive. That difference was both simple and profoundly complex. The prisoners that found meaning in and around their suffering had the best chance of surviving.

Frankl spent the rest of his life understanding the paradox of suffering. He quoted another German philosopher, Friedrick Nietzsche, who said, “Whoever has a why to live can bear almost any how.” Those who found a larger meaning and purpose in their lives, who had a dream of what they could contribute, were, in Frankl’s view, more likely to survive than those who gave up. He suggests that our perception that life owes us something is our first problem. He advises changing our question from “What can I expect from life?” to “What does life expect of me?” John F. Kennedy said the same thing, but in the context of our citizenship, “Do not ask what your country can do for you, but what you can do for our country.” The pandemic allows us to think beyond ourselves to the needs of the whole. Every day we can ask the question, “What can I do today to alleviate someone else’s suffering.” There is meaning in serving others, and it benefits both the giver and the receiver. In spite of everything, we must not miss this opportunity to find our way to - yes to life! Join the conversation on Facebook at Just Now Old Enough.

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