Saturday, February 15, 2014

Book quotes: The Doctor and the Soul by Viktor E.Frankl (2/2)


Here is the second batch of quotes and notes from The Doctor and the Soul, reviewed earlier.

The more he grasps the task quality of life, the more meaningful will life appear to him. ..existential analysis teaches people to see life as an assignment. But the following addendum must be made: There are people who go a step further , who, as it were, experience life in a further dimension. They also experience the authority from which the task comes. They experience the task master who has assigned the task to them. In our opinion we have here the essential characteristic of the religious man: he is a man who interprets his existence not ony in terms of being responsible for fulfilling his life tasks, but also being responsible to the taskmaster.

In the light of existential analysis there is no such thing as a generally valid and universal binding life task. From this point of view the question of “the” task in life or “the” meaning of life is – meaningless. It reminds me of the question a reporting asked a grand master in chess. “And now tell me, maestro – what is the best move in chess?”. Neither question can be answered in a general fashion, but only in regard to a particular situation and person. The chess player, if he took the question seriously, would have had to reply: “A chess-player must attempt, within the limits of his ability and within the limits imposed by his opponent, to make the best move at any given time.”

It is life that asks questions of man.  …it is not up to man to question; rather he should recognise that he is questioned by life; he has only to respond by being responsible; and he can answer only to life by answering for his life.

On death: Finality, temporality, is ..no only an essential characteristic of human life, but also a real factor in its meaningfulness/ The meaning of human existence is based upon its irreversible quality.

Man acts with the matter which fate has supplied him.

To do one’s best implies that one also includes the relativity of an accomplishment in the judgement of its value. The accomplishment must be judged in reference to the starting point..

Only under the hammer blows of fate, in the white heat of suffering, does life gain shape and form.

“Life is not anything. It is the opportunity for something” – Hebel

It is true that many persons, mostly those with a neurotic tinge, insist that they could have fulfilled themselves if only they had gone into a different occupation.   But that assertions is either a misunderstanding of what occupation means, or is a self-deception. … the meaning of a doctor’s work lies in what he does beyond his purely medical duties; it is what he brings to his work as a personality, as a human being.  Frankl goes on to accept that a person’s prevailing condition of work may distort their opportunity for meaning/self-actualisation/fulfilment, but then then they have their leisure time, although they may be too tired and need to recover their strength for the next day.

The jobless man need not necessarily succumb to unemployment neurosis (people who take up reading, music, voluntary work, hiking, games, friends, community work, etc realise that human life without paid work doesn’t equal meaninglessness. Also, an unemployed person who maintains their morale has a better chance of finding work ).

…both employment and unemployment can be misused as means to a neurotic end. …The capacity to work is not everything; it is neither a sufficient nor essential basis for a meaningful life.

The satisfactions of work are not identical to with the creative satisfactions of life as a whole.

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