If you want something to read before bed, don’t choose this.
But if you want to understand how to find meaning in your life, this is the book for you.
I picked it up on the recommendation of Simon Sinek, the motivational speaker and author of Start with Why. Viktor Frankl wrote his book a decade after being freed from a WWII Nazi concentration camp. As a psychiatrist and prisoner, he gained unusual insight into what makes our lives meaningful.
It’s not a book about happiness, which is perhaps what makes it so interesting. Happiness isn’t really found in a concentration camp, but meaning and hope are still there if you look for them.
In fact, they make survival more likely.
Survival isn’t really guaranteed to anyone, regardless of where they are. Did your family struggle? Mine did, some I assume in those very concentration camps that Frankl speaks of. Others escaped to America from the murderous pogroms in Russia around the turn of the 20th century.
I thought about them as I read Frankl’s book. They left everything they knew and struggled to build a new life here in America. They suffered in a way I can’t ever claim to have suffered.
Does that make you think about responsibility? Yeah. Me too.
Who among my family was granted the peace, the technology and the political freedom to attempt sweeping changes? Who has the psychological space to work toward a vision?
Well. That would be me.
Read this if Your Ancestors Survived
Maybe your family was a victim of slavery and Jim Crow. Maybe they came from a place where food was scarce or political conflict made day to day life dangerous. Maybe tragedy struck in an otherwise peaceful time.
What do you think those people would say about our lives today? Were they in a position to do half the things we can do? And yet they somehow survived and brought meaning into their lives.
Can’t we do the same?
With all the resources we have at our disposal, I say we can. And we can honor those ancestors in the process.