As a professor in two fields, neurology and psychiatry, I am fully aware of the extent to which man is subject to biological, psychological and sociological conditions. But in addition to being a professor in two fields I am a survivor of four camps - concentration camps, that is - and as such I also bear witness to the unexpected extent to which man is capable of defying and braving even the worst conditions conceivable.
Man does not simply exist but always decides what his existence will be, what he will become the next moment. By the same token, every human being has the freedom to change at any instant.
Man is capable of changing the world for the better if possible, and of changing himself for the better if necessary.
No man should judge unless he asks himself in absolute honesty whether in a similar situation he might not have done the same.
The truth-that love is the highest goal to which man can aspire.
Ultimate meaning necessarily exceeds and surpasses the finite intellectual capacities of man... What is demanded of man is not, as some existential philosophers teach, to endure the meaninglessness of life, but rather to bear his incapacity to grasp its unconditional meaningfulness in rational terms. Logos is deeper than logic.
Usually, to be sure, man considers only the stubble field of transitoriness and overlooks the full granaries of the past, wherein he had salvaged once and for all his deeds, his joys and also his sufferings. Nothing can be undone, and nothing can be done away with. I should say having been is the surest kind of being.
What is demanded of man is not, as some existential philosophers teach, to endure the meaninglessness of life, but rather to bear his incapacity to grasp its unconditional meaninglessness in rational terms.
When a man finds that it is his destiny to suffer, he will have to accept his suffering as his task.... He will have to acknowledge the fact that even in suffering he is unique and alone in the universe. No one can relieve him of his suffering or suffer in his place. His unique opportunity lies in the way in which he bears his burden.
Then I grasped the meaning of the greatest secret that human poetry and human thought and belief have to impart The salvation of man is through love and in love.
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.
Since Auschwitz we know what man is capable of. And since Hiroshima we know what is at stake.
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.
I understood how a man who has nothing left in this world may still know bliss, be it only for a brief moment, in the contemplation of his beloved. In a position of utter desolation, when a man cannot express himself in positive action, when his only achievement may consist in enduring his sufferings in the right way an honorable way in such a position man can, through loving contemplation of the image he carries of his beloved, achieve fulfillment.
Ultimately, man should not ask what the meaning of his life is, but rather he must recognize that it is he who is asked.
Even though conditions such as lack of sleep, insufficient food and various mental stresses may suggest that the inmates were bound to react in certain ways, in the final analysis it becomes clear that the sort of person the prisoner became was the result of an inner decision, and not the result of camp influences alone. Fundamentally, therefore, any man can, even under such circumstances, decide what shall become of him mentally and spiritually. He may retain his human dignity even in a concentration camp. I became acquainted with those martyrs whose behavior in camp, whose suffering and death, bore witness to the fact that the last inner freedom cannot be lost.
A thought transfixed me for the first time in my life I saw the truth as it is set into song by so many poets, proclaimed as the final wisdom by so many thinkers. The truththat love is the ultimate and the highest goal to which man can aspire.
Everything can be taken from a man or a woman but one thing: the last of human freedoms to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way.
What was really needed was a fundamental change in our attitude toward life. We had to learn ourselves and, furthermore, we had to teach the despairing men, that it did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us.
More Viktor E. Frankl Quotations (Based on Topics)
Life - Man - Suffering - Death & Dying - Love - Success - Duty - Liberty & Freedom - Contemplation - Happiness - Courage - World - Opportunity - Purposes - Mind - Work & Career - Facts - Value - Potential - View All Viktor E. Frankl Quotations
More Viktor E. Frankl Quotations (By Book Titles)
- Man's Search for Meaning
Viktor E. Frankl - Phil McGraw - Abraham Maslow - Rollo May - Philip Zimbardo - M. Scott Peck - Ivan Pavlov - Edward de Bono - Carl Rogers - B. F. Skinner