Enlightened Capitalism

Essays about how to harness people's natural desire to create wealth and improve their quality of life to solve global problems such as war and poverty.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Man's Search For Meaning

I just read a fascinating book by Viktor Frankl: Man's Search For Meaning. The title turned me off at first, because I thought it was going to be either a sermon on "right behavior" (which, coming from the 1950's always comes off a little ludicrous now) or a surreal philosophical poem. The narrative reminded me of Art Spiegelman's "Maus" -- it's an incisive, analytical reflection on the author's experiences in Nazi concentration camps. But to my surprise, the book is actually a seminal work on the psychology of happiness and success.

What makes it more than just another personal account of the atrocities of Hitler's Germany is that Frankl focuses entirely on what he learned and how he grew, spiritually, socially, and even professionally through the ordeal. He turns his unique position as world authority on being oppressed, an expert sufferer, if you will, to his advantage, and in so doing, demonstrates his unshakeable belief in human free will and self-determination.

I am curious as to whether Werner Erhard (founder of EST, of which Landmark Education is a later development) was a disciple of Frankl's. Frankl figured out on his own the central concepts of Landmark Education: that we create our own reality by our choice in how we interpret our experiences, that our vision of the future (rather than the past) is what determines who we are in the present, that trying to change doesn't work, whereas accepting "what is" (he recommends paradoxically trying to stay the same, in persistent problem cases) allows us to change effortlessly. He even espouses nonjudgement of people, and in most cases says neutral or positive things about his tormentors.

He was truly an enlightened man, ahead of his time.


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