Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Frankl on Freedom

From Man's Search for Meaning, p. 132

Freedom, however, is not the last word. Freedom is only part of the story and half of the truth. Freedom is but the negative aspect of the whole phenomenon whose positive aspect is responsibleness. In fact, freedom is in danger of degenerating into mere arbitrariness unless it is lived in terms of responsibleness. That is why I recommend that the Statue of Liberty on the East Coast be supplemented by a Statue of Responsibility on the West Coast.

More Frankl on Meaning

From Man's Search for Meaning:

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. 
-p. 118

At any moment, man must decide, for better or for worse, what will be the monument of his existence.
-p. 121

One of the main features of human existence is the capacity to rise above such conditions, to grow beyond them. Man is capable of changing the world for the better if possible, and of changing himself for the better if necessary.
p. 131

As we see, a human being is not one in pursuit of happiness but rather in search of a reason to become happy, last but not least, through actualizing the potential meaning inherent and dormant in a given situation.
-p. 138

As to the causation of the feeling of meaninglessness, one may say, albeit an oversimplifying vein, that people have enough to live by but nothing to live for; they have the means but no meaning.
-p. 140

You may of course ask whether we really need to refer to "saints." Wouldn't it suffice just to refer to decent people? It is true that they form a minority. More than that, they always will remain a minority. And yet I see therein the very challenge to join the minority. For the world is in a bad state, but everything will become still worse unless each of us does his best.
p. 154

Frankl on Being Questioned by 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. We needed to stop asking about the meaning of life, and instead to think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life--daily and hourly. Our answer must consist, not in talk and meditation, but in right action and in right conduct. Life ultimately means taking the responsibility to find the right answer to its problems and to fulfill the tasks which it constantly sets for each individual.

Viktor Frankl, Man's Search for Meaning, p. 77.

Frankl on Suffering

If there is meaning in life at all, then there must be a meaning in suffering. Suffering is an ineradicable part of life, even as fate and death. Without suffering and death human life cannot be complete.

. . . 

Emotion, which is suffering, ceases to be suffering as soon as we form a clear and concise picture of it.

-Viktor Frankl, Man's Search for Meaning, p. 67 and 74.

What man actually needs is not a tensionless state but rather the striving and struggling for a worthwhile goal, a freely chosen task. What he needs is not the discharge of tension at any cost but the call of a potential meaning waiting to be fulfilled by him.

-Id., p. 105.

But let me make it perfectly clear that in no way is suffering necessary to find meaning. I only insist that meaning is possible even in spite of suffering--provided, certainly, that the suffering is unavoidable. If it were avoidable, however, the meaningful thing to do would be to remove its cause, be it psychological, biological, or political. To suffer unnecessarily is masochistic rather than heroic.

-Id., p. 113

Frankl on Attitude and Agency

Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms--to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way. . . . It is this spiritual freedom--which cannot be taken away--that makes life meaningful and purposeful.

-Viktor Frankl, Man's Search for Meaning, p. 66-67

Dickens on Being True

He was simply an staunchly true to his duty alike in the large case and in the small. So all true souls ever are. So every true soul ever was, ever is, and ever will be. There is nothing little to the really great in spirit.

-Charles Dickens, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, p. 29.

Tolstoy on the True Life

From The Gospel in Brief

We must understand the true life, what it is. The true life is brought to light always in the lost being brought back to where they belong; in the awakening of those who slept. People who have the true life, who are restored to the source of their being, cannot, like worldly men, take account of others as better or worse; but, being sharers of the Father's life, they can take delight only in the return of the lost to their Father. If a son, who has gone astray and left his father, should repent, and return, how then could the other sons of the same father grudge at the father's joy, or themselves not rejoice at the brother's return?


The true life of the fulfilment of the Father's will is not in the life of the past, or of the future, but it is the life of now, the life which all must live at this instant of time. Therefore one must never relax the true life in them. Men are set to watch over life, not of the past or the future, but the life now being lived; and in that, to fulfil the will of the Father of all men. If they let this life escape them, by not fulfilling the Father's will, then they will not receive it back again; just as a watchman, set upon a night-long watch, does not perform his duty if he fall asleep even for a moment; for in this moment a thief may come. Therefore a man must concentrate his strength in the present hour, for in this hour only can he fulfil the Father's will. And that will is life and blessing for all men. Only those live who are doing good. Good done to men, now in this hour, is life, life which unites us with the common Father.

Tolstoy on Christianity

From The gospel in brief, p. 231-232

I consider Christianity to be neither a pure revelation nor a phase of history, but I consider it as the only doctrine which gives a meaning to life.

Anna Harriette Leonowens on World Religions

From The English Governess at the Siamese Court, by Anna Harriette Leonowens, p. 122:

We are prone to ignore or to condemn that which we do not clearly understand; and thus it is, and on no better ground, that we deny that there are influences in the religions of the East to render their followers wiser, nobler, purer. And yet no one of respectable intelligence will question that there have been, in all ages, individual pagans who, by the simplicity of their doctrine and the purity of their practice, have approached very nearly to the perfection of the Christian graces; and that they were, if not so much the better for the religion they had, at least far, far better than if they had had no religion at all. It is not, however, in human nature to approve and admire any course of life without inquiring into the spirit of the law that regulates it. Nor may it suffice that the spirit is there, if not likewise the letter,--that is to say, the practice. The best doctrine may become the worst, if imperfectly understood, erroneously interpreted, or superstitiously followed. 

And from p. 124:

Many have missed seeing what is true and wise in the doctrine of Buddha because they preferred to observe it from the standpoint and in the attitude of an antagonist, rather than of an inquirer. To understand aright the earnest creed and hope of any man, one must be at least sympathetically en rapport with him,--must be willing to feel, and to confess within one's self, the germs of those errors whose growth seems so rank in him. In the humble spirit of this fellowship of fallibility let us draw as near as we may to the hearts of these devotees and the heart of their mystery.

Battlefield of the Heart

From Life of Pi by Yann Martel, p. 93:

The main battlefield for good is not the open ground of the public arena but the small clearing of each heart.

Doing No Harm

More gold from Uncle Tom's Cabin, p. 282:

"One should have expected some terrible enormities charged to those who are excluded from Heaven, as the reason; but no,--they are condemned for not doing positive good, as if that included every possible harm."

"Perhaps," said Miss Ophelia, "it is impossible for a person who does no good not to do harm."

Training of Children

From Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe:

"Since training children is the staple work of the human race," said Augustine, "I should think it something of a consideration that our system does not work well there."

Anger and Agency

FYI I am trying to stop letting things pile up on my (physical and electronic) desk, so here come a random assortment of things I noted on my Kindle.

We lose power and risk our agency when we allow anger to influence our decisions and control us. Example from the Book of Mormon:

For behold, his designs were to stir up the Lamanites to anger against the Nephites; this he did that he might usurp great power over them, and also that he might gain power over the Nephites by bringing them into bondage.

-Alma 43:8, referring to Zarahemnah

The Rule of Law in the Eternities

How could he sin if there was no law? How could there be a law save there was a punishment?

Now, there was a punishment affixed, and a just law given, which brought remorse of conscience unto man.

Now, if there was no law given--if a man murdered he should die--would he be afraid he would die if he should murder? 

And also, if there was no law given against sin men would not be afraid to sin.

And if there was no law given, if men sinned what could justice do, or mercy either, for they would have no claim upon the creature? 

But there is a law given, and a punishment affixed, and a repentance granted; which repentance, mercy claimeth; otherwise justice claimeth the creature and executeth the law, and the law inflicteth the punishment; if not so, the works of justice would be destroyed, and God would cease to be God.

Alma 42:17-23

Before judging those who didn't believe...

The actuality of the messiah's status as the chosen Son of God, who was with the Father form the beginning, a Being of preexistent power and glory, was but dimly perceived, if conceived at all, by the people in general; and although to prophets specially commissioned in the authorities and privileges of the Holy Priesthood, revelation of the great truth was given, they transmitted it to the people rather in the language of imagery and parable than in words of direct plainness. Nevertheless the testimony of the evangelists and the apostles, the attestation of the Christ Himself while in the flesh, and the revelations given in the present dispensation leave us without dearth of scriptural proof. 

-James E. Talmage, Jesus the Christ.