Yes To Life, In spite of everything – Viktor Frankl

“It was Kierkegaard who told the wise parable that the door to happiness always opens “outward,” which means it closes itself precisely against the person who tries to push the door to happiness “inward,” so to speak. I once had two world-weary people sitting opposite me—as chance would have it, at the same time—a man and a woman. Both had stated, in complete agreement, word for word, that their own lives were meaningless, that they “no longer expected anything of life.” Somehow both seemed to be right. It soon emerged, however, that, conversely, something was waiting for each of them: for the man, a scientific work that was unfinished, and for the woman, a child who was living abroad, far away and out of reach. At this point it would be helpful, as we might say with Kant, to “perform a Copernican revolution,” a conceptual turn through 180 degrees, after which 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? Now we also understand how, in the final analysis, the question of the meaning of life is not asked in the right way, if asked in the way it is generally asked: it is not we who are permitted to ask about the meaning of life—it is life that asks the questions, directs questions at us—we are the ones who are questioned! We are the ones who must answer, must give answers to the constant, hourly question of life, to the essential “life questions.” Living itself means nothing other than being questioned; our whole act of being is nothing more than responding to—of being responsible toward—life. With this mental standpoint nothing can scare us anymore, no future, no apparent lack of a future. Because now the present is everything as it holds the eternally new question of life for us. Now everything depends on what is expected of us. As to what awaits us in the future, we don’t need to know that any more than we are able to know it.”

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