For the last few days, I have been reading Victor Frankl's Man's Search for Meaning, a book based on his experiences in Auschwitz. As a psychologist, he sought to understand what it was that allowed survivors to endure what others could not.
In his introduction to the book, rabbi Harold Kushner begins by quoting Nietzsche in summing up Frankl's ideas: "He who has a Why to live for can endure almost any How."
Kushner then discusses what is, for him and me, one of the core arguments from the book, writing that "life is not primarily a search for pleasure...or for power..., but a quest for meaning. The greatest task for any person is to find meaning in his or her life. Frankl saw three possible sources for meaning: in work (doing something significant), in love (caring for another person), and in courage during difficult times."
This quest for meaning calls to mind our own ideals of "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," which inevitably leads me to ask how these relate not only to my own life but what I teach and how I teach it. It was the richness of one's inner life and the depth of love one felt for another (his wife, in Frankl's case) that sustained many during the terrors and trials of their time in the camps.
I find myself challenged by the book to ask what I am doing in my classroom to cultivate that inner life of the mind and spirit through what we read, discuss, and write about.