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First published January 1, 1946
To say yes to life is not only meaningful under all circumstances - because life itself is - but it is also possible under all circumstances.Content warnings include death by suicide, descriptions of concentration camp experiences, euthanasia, mental illness and suicidal ideation.
I slept and dreamt
that life was joy.
I awoke and saw
that life was duty.
I worked - and behold,
duty was joy.
No talking, no lectures can help us get any further - there is only one thing left for us to do: to act; namely, to act in our everyday lives.
"It's a minor miracle this book exists. The lectures that form the basis of it were given in 1946 by the psychiatrist Viktor Frankl a scant eleven months after he was liberated from a labor camp where, a short time before, he had been on the brink of death. The lectures, edited into a book by Frankl, were first published in German in 1946 by the Vienna publisher Franz Deuticke. The volume went out of print and was largely forgotten until another publisher, Beltz, recovered the book and proposed to republish it. Yes to Life: In Spite of Everything has never before been published in English."
"One could also say that our human existence can be made meaningful “to the very last breath”; as long as we have breath, as long as we are still conscious, we are each responsible for answering life’s questions. This should not surprise us once we recall the great fundamental truth of being human—being human is nothing other than being conscious and being responsible!"
"Let us imagine a man who has been sentenced to death and, a few hours before his execution, has been told he is free to decide on the menu for his last meal. The guard comes into his cell and asks him what he wants to eat, offers him all kinds of delicacies; but the man rejects all his suggestions. He thinks to himself that it is quite irrelevant whether he stuffs good food into the stomach of his organism or not, as in a few hours it will be a corpse. And even the feelings of pleasure that could still be felt in the organism’s cerebral ganglia seem pointless in view of the fact that in two hours they will be destroyed forever.
But the whole of life stands in the face of death, and if this man had been right, then our whole lives would also be meaningless, were we only to strive for pleasure and nothing else—preferably the most pleasure and the highest degree of pleasure possible. Pleasure in itself cannot give our existence meaning; thus the lack of pleasure cannot take away meaning from life, which now seems obvious to us."
"Certainly, our life, in terms of the biological, the physical, is transitory in nature. Nothing of it survives—and yet how much remains! What remains of it, what will remain of us, what can outlast us, is what we have achieved during our existence that continues to have an effect, transcending us and extending beyond us. The effectiveness of our life becomes incorporeal and in that way it resembles radium, whose physical form is also, during the course of its “lifetime” (and radioactive materials are known to have a limited lifetime) increasingly converted into radiation energy, never to return to materiality. What we “radiate” into the world, the “waves” that emanate from our being, that is what will remain of us when our being itself has long since passed away..."