Minh’s Notes

Human-readable chicken scratch

Minh Nguyễn
August 3rd, 2004
High School


In case you forgot

In case you forgot that each senior at St. X has summer reading to do:

If you lost the assignment sheet (or never even knew about it), I’ve reproduced the document, for your convenience. Read on…

Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning: An Introduction to Logotherapy, 1959 [also revised in 1962, 1984, 1992], Beacon Press, Boston, MA. (Note: it does not matter which edition you read; only the introductions are different.)

Man’s Search for Meaning tells the chilling and inspirational story of eminent psychiatrist Viktor Frankl, who was imprisoned at Auschwitz and other concentration camps for over three years during World War II. Immersed in great suffering and loss, Frankl began to wonder why some of his fellow prisoners were able not only to survive the horrifying conditions, but also to grow in the process.

The author’s conclusion – that the most basic human motivation is the will to meaning – became the basis of his groundbreaking psychological theory, logotherapy. As Frederic Nietzsche puts it, “He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.” In this book Frankl offers ways to help each one of us focus on finding the purpose in our lives.

While the whole text is illuminating, we want you to focus on “Part One: Experiences in a Concentration Camp” [pp 17–100, 4th ed.]. The purpose of the assignment is to look at the essence of existence as well as the meaning of love and suffering. It will also serve as a prelude to many of the themes we will cover in the Senior Theology course.

This assignment will be graded. Late points will be deducted.

The following questions are not meant to be inclusive, but merely to serve as starting points for further reflection on your part. It isn’t important what questions you respond to or the order in which you respond to them. Just make your responses part of an integrated essay. You should also include some element of reflection on where this might apply to your life right now.

  • In the first part, Frankl writes of the hard fight for existence and the struggle for daily bread. What incidents or insights were the most compelling for you? Which was the most surprising coming from someone in a concentration camp?
  • What are the keys to retaining one’s sense of values and self-worth?
  • What does he mean by “inner hold”? Why is this important?
  • What does Frankl have to say about freedom and the limits from one’s surroundings?
  • What is the significance for you of the following statement: “… it did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us…”? Following this is his reflection on the meaning of life. Can you relate to any of this?
  • What does he mean by the hidden opportunities achieved in one’s suffering? How does this compare with the attitudes of most people in this culture today toward suffering?
  • What is the reaction of most prisoners on gaining freedom from the camps? Is this what you expected?
  • What can you relate to your life and what you have experienced so far in your life? If you quote from the text, simply put the page number in brackets at the end of the quote.

Due date: August 24th, 2004. This is the first day of classes for seniors. This applies to both first- and second-semester students. Turn the paper in to your Introduction to Theology / Servant Leadership teacher [Daley, Eby, or Wilkins] as indicated on your schedule. Type their name and the section number on page 1.

Length: 1,000–1,100 words (@3–3.5 pages typed)

Format: you can write in first or third person. Paper should be proofread, spell-checked, paragraph format. There is no need for a cover page. Name and section number should be typed in the top, right-hand corner of page 1. Margins = 1″ on all sides.

Questions: If there are any problems or questions, e-mail them to mwilkins@stxavier.org or call (513) 761-7815 ext. 420 (Mr. Wilkins).