Remembering Viktor Frankl

I learned of Dr. Viktor Frankl, many decades ago from his close friend Dr. Hiroshi Takashima, at a special lecture in Adelaide, Australia.  Hiroshi was sitting alone in the lounge of his host, who seemed busy with friends in the kitchen. With time and space for the two of us to speak, we struck up a wonderful discussion and Hiroshi urged me to contact him when next in Tokyo.

My encounters with Hiroshi made me determined to buy Dr. Frankl’s book:  Man’s Search for Meaning, where Frankl explained how Logotherapy would relieve clients from existential vacuum.  This is a feeling that your personal context is empty of any meaning. You have a feeling of being lost.

Within a year I was presenting in Roppongi, in Tokyo, and was handed Hiroshi’s Journal of Logotherapy and Humanistic Anthropology, that showcased Frankl’s ideas. I was thrilled when Hiroshi published my Roppongi talk in the same journal.

Frankl’s own story was the basis for his explanation, borne of his experience in the Auswitz death camp.  While there he had almost lost his manuscript, as he lined up a few times to enter the gas chamber. Remarkably, the line stopped short each time.  During this time Frankl became convinced that we all search to understand our existence.  In his words:

“The meaning of life is derived from taking responsibility for the challenges set before us.”

WWII may be in the past now, but our times still risk each of us experiencing an existential vacuum, if we don’t take responsibility for the challenges of our lives.  Frankl would say that a meaningful life is discovered in this regard.

Frankl’s teachings went on to influence the quest to overcome nihilism in profound ways, helping people to understand the search for meaning in life.

Frankl has certainly inspired my sense of myself and to search for meaning in my own situations. I owe him a great debt of gratitude.

“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”