Man’s search for meaning

“Man’s search for meaning” was given to our office after a long day. Coming back  after riding in Mekong, I asked Van upon seeing a new stack of books on the table.

– Wow, whose books are these?
– Steve’s. We can read them.

Scrolling through the bunch, I chose for myself the thinnest one for the sake of…fea
sibility. With the cover of a candle lighting in the dark and an ambitious name, the book gave an impression of being overrated, or at least religious. I read through a few pages and put it back to the shell, like what I do with almost anything else in life – abrupt, broken and unfinished.


Not until Paul came to Saigon did I took it out again to discuss over a cafe. “It is a great book”, Mary Croy said. Or at least something similar. Written by a survival in Nazi concentration camp and a psychoanalyst – Victor Frank, the book describes and analizes psychological reactions, emotional turmoil of the author and his friends after being robbed away everything step by step.

They are herded as naked sub-human beings for a long period of time in extremely limited space, lack of food, heavy repetitive workload, no hope and no real identity.

In that particular time of history, how did the prisoners cope to find the meaning in life?

Buchenwald Survivors, 1945

The book is divided in two parts, the later part is less interesting and more focused on logotherapy as a method, yet in general, it is a vivid depiction of emotional battle of normal people in an abnormal context, when all set of values are challenged. How can they, and us, see the meaning of life in a seemingly hopeless and pointless concept?

Despite contrast in the time and context used in the book, we can, for once, imagine ourselves in their shoes and feel a special emotion journey actually experienced by an articulate mind-reader and professional psychologist.


More importantly, how can we, modern human beings living in peace and fulfillment of basic needs, relate to the “meaning” mentioned in the book? As most of us have every basic things we need, is the void and vacuum of meaninglessness in modern life still relevant to the meaning in the book?


How can a normal person like me with music, earphones, ample portions of food, work to do and freedom to do so many things still feel meaningless?

The book has brought me through a special teleportation back in time and get into the mind of another human’s quest for meaning. In a seemingly hopeless and pointless absurd cut of human history.

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