YES To Life, In Spite of Everything!


“But there have been people who have said yes [to life and the responsibility within it] despite all difficulties. And when the inmates in the Buchenwald concentration camp sang in their song, ‘We still want to say yes to life’, they did not only sing about it, but also achieved it many times – they and many of us in the other camps as well. And they achieved it under unspeakable conditions, external and internal conditions…So shouldn’t we all be able to achieve it today in, after all, incomparably milder circumstances?”

~ Yes To Life In Spite Of Everything by Viktor E Frankl


WHAT IT MEANS TO SAY YES TO LIFE

What is the ‘it’ Frankl refers to?

‘It’ is the burden and ‘glory’ of responsibility; the decision to say yes to life; a choice of whether to fight or cower; ‘it’ is the ability to find meaning in all things in life and even in death. To find meaning in suffering and hopelessness, as well as in the beautiful things.


Was it the author’s experiences in Auschwitz, Dachau and other concentration camps that caused him to take such a staunch view on saying ‘yes to life, in spite of everything’, or was this mindset already inculcated before he suffered in the most horrific circumstances in these Nazi concentration camps?


This book reveals ‘it’ was within him all along – the daring to live, whatever cruelty and abuse life threw at him. And it also becomes a personal challenge, inspirational guide and call to action for us today to choose to live and thrive ‘in spite of everything’.


PRE-WAR FRANKL – AN END TO SUICIDE 


In the summer of 1931, Frankl’s suicide prevention program was 100% effective; over that period, there was not one single student suicide in that area, despite that being the usual time where suicides increased when school or college reports were issued. Incredible! 

Surely we need more Frankl’s in this world today?


He didn’t just espouse ‘logotherapy’; he lived and breathed it. This was his passionate pursuit because it caused people to look beyond themselves and their suffering, and in fact to even look within their suffering and imminent death (more details and specific real-life examples in the book) – to find meaning and to choose to use that as an invitation to live in the fullness of each and every moment. 


“We give life meaning through our actions, but also through loving and, finally, through suffering. “

Viktor E Frankl, Yes To Life In Spite of Everything

Frankl continues by quoting and expanding on Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832), German author, scientist and statesman :

“There is no predicament which cannot be ennobled either by an achievement or by endurance,’ said Goethe. Either we change our fate, if possible, or we willingly accept it, if necessary. In either case we can experience nothing but inner growth through such misfortune.

Viktor E Frankl, Yes To Life In Spite of Everything


POST-WAR FRANKL – PASSIONATE PURPOSE 

What struck me most significantly throughout this book was Frankl’s doggedness to complete several (impressive, impactful and life-changing) manuscripts and lectures within months of his rescue from the concentration camp. 


How could he do this?

He realised the significance of his works and the fact that, now – in that time, and even in our present day – his work was needed more than ever. 


The afterword speaks of the necessity and urgency Frankl felt to feed that contemporary generation starved of humanity and morality because of the ‘narrowness of Nazi ideology’. 

That is what Frankl returned home to – to people who had turned a blind eye and rejected him and his Jewish countrymen through false ignorance or absolute complicity. 


“Imagine that the man liberated from the concentration camp returns, comes home. Then he may be met with some kind of shrug of the shoulders. And above all, he will always hear two phrases from other people: ‘We did not know anything about it.’ and ‘We also suffered.'”

Viktor E Frankl, Yes To Life In Spite of Everything

And yet, Frankl, a survivor of the Holocaust who lost family and friends in the most unimaginable of ways, did not judge them. Instead, he dared them to look within themselves, acknowledge the guilt and the lack of responsibility, and behave differently next time. 

A CALL TO ACTION

And ultimately, this realisation made me firstly wonder in absolute awe and admiration to question what could drive a person so passionately that he could survive hell and return to produce something like manna from heaven in the form of not just these series of lectures compiled within ‘Yes To Life In Spite of Everything’, but also a monumental manuscript (you may have already read it – Man’s Search for Meaning – but if you haven’t, please, I implore you to grab a copy TODAY) – that has sold over 16 million copies and been translated to fifty languages? 


The answer?

Meaning. Responsibility. The awareness that suffering has the opportunity to offer something else to this world. So I will try to carry the spirit of Frankl in the final words of this rather sombre, yet hopeful blog post:

In suffering, in moments of weariness where you feel as though each day rolls into one, that life is meaningless and tiring, think twice. And remember and follow Frankl’s words and deeds.

‘The question can no longer be: ‘What can I expect from life?’ but can now only be: ‘What does life expect of me?’ What task in life is waiting for me?’

Viktor E Frankl, Yes To Life In Spite of Everything

Like Frankl, think on this question, answer it. And go again. Your life counts. Your actions matter. So, say YES to life… in spite of everything.


Today, I’ve been challenged by the question asked by Viktor Frankl: ‘What does life expect of me?’ What task in life is waiting for me?’ Quote tweet & share your answer to this question with me!

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