November 09, 2007


Photo credit: This photo of Auschwitz is by betauser courtesy of

The theme of this week's Goat Rope is some reflections on Victor Frankl's classic book, Man's Search for Meaning. Frankl, who lived until 1997, lost most of his family in the Holocaust and barely survived the concentration camps himself.

In this his most popular book, he recounts his experiences and observations and explains his view of psychology, which he called logotherapy from the Greek words for reason and healing.

If this is your first visit, please click on earlier posts.

The last section of his book contains a little gem of an essay called "The Case for a Tragic Optimism." He maintains that it is possible to say yes to life in spite of its "tragic triad" of pain, guilt and death, all of which are pretty impossible bullets to dodge in this life.

He argues that

life is potentially meaningful under any conditions, even those which are the most miserable.

And by optimism, he means making the best of whatever the situation might be and however bad it might be. He believed that people had the potential for dealing with the tragic triad by

(1) turning suffering into a human achievement and accomplishment; (2) deriving from guilt the opportunity to change oneself for the better; and (3) deriving from life's transitoriness an incentive to take responsible action.

Each of these approaches offers a sense of meaning. Specifically, he mentions three ways of arriving at meaning in life. One is by creating or accomplishing something. Another is by "experiencing something or encountering someone," i.e. through love and relationship. And the other is by facing hopeless situations with courage and dignity:

even the helpless victim of a hopeless situation, facing a fate he cannot change, may rise above himself, may grow beyond himself, and by doing so change himself.

Frankl also suggests that the past should be seen not as something that is hopelessly lost but rather as a source of consolation:

In the past, nothing is irretrievably lost, but rather, on the contrary, everything is irrevocably stored and treasured. To be sure, people tend to see only the stubble fields of transitoriness but overlook and forget the full granaries of the past into which they have brought the harvest of their lives: the deeds done, the loves loved, and last but not least, the sufferings they have gone through with courage and dignity.

Check it out--it's worth it.


Opposition to the war in Iraq has reached an all-time high, according to the CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll released Thursday morning.

Support for the war in Iraq has dropped to 31 percent, and the 68 percent who oppose the war is a new record, up slightly from last month. The last time a majority supported the war was in 2003, when 54 percent answered affirmatively...

But wait, there's more:

The public also opposes U.S. military action against Iran. Sixty-three percent oppose air strikes on Iran, while 73 percent oppose using ground troops as well as air strikes in that country.

Seventy percent said they oppose any military strike on Iran, slightly higher than a 2005 number of 66 percent but significantly higher than 2002's 23 percent.

SPEAKING OF PUBLIC OPINION, a new survey shows that more Americans are interested in ending poverty and hunger.

NEW SHADE OF GREEN. Here's an interesting item from The Nation about the growing link between practical environmentalism and social justice groups.

CATCHY TITLE. El Cabrero had trouble passing up an article with the title "Torture: the New Abortion." Maybe you will too.

UPDATE ON THE MEGAN WILLIAMS CASE. The prosecutor in Logan County is requesting a hearing to appoint a guardian ad litem for Megan Williams.

EXERCISE YOUR BRAIN with crossword puzzles? According to this op-ed, you may do even better by going to the gym or out for a jog. (Reading Goat Rope, however, has been proven improve just about everything.)

THIS JUST IN: Japanese scientists have designed a mouse that isn't afraid of cats.


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