It pays to overrate

Internet This inspiring talk on YouTube reminds us everyone has a meaning to live for. Sudhamahi Regunathan

F ew of us can say like Socrates ( in Aristophane's comedy “The Clouds”) that we “ … tread the air and scrutinize the sun”… but we all do aspire to manoeuvre our lives through a plane higher than electricity cuts, dug up roads and rising prices. In a memorable short clip not more than four minutes and 22 seconds long, this is just what Viktor Frankl says and tells you how to do.

Viktor Frankl (1905-1997) was in concentration camps including the Theresienstadt, Auschwitz, and Dachau for a period of three years during WW II. In his book “Man's Search for Meaning” (a must read) he describes his experiences, not as he says, to elicit sympathy or to revel in the narration of the cruelty of gas chambers, nor even to relate how he watched men die. But more to share the secret of how he survived with his spirits intact.

That his spirits are strong is the first high that the black and white video clip uploaded on YouTube talks conveys to you. Sixty-seven years old at the time, Frankl, who looks older, perhaps because of all that he had been through, says he was learning to fly at that time and begins with something his flying instructor taught him which applies just as much to human life. When a pilot has to fly to a certain airfield and when there is cross wind, he would always aims at a point many degrees North of his destined point of landing. Only then will he land where he should. If he were to aim at landing on the airfield, then he would crash, for the aircraft will tend to go below the targeted point of landing. This process of reaching higher is called crabbing.

“This holds for man also, I would say. If we take man as he really is we make him worse. If we seem to be idealistic and are overestimating, overrating man, we provoke him to become what he really can be. So we have to be idealist in a way for then we will wind up as the true realist as we really are. If we take man as he should be we make him capable of becoming what he can be,” asserts Frankl. “If you don't recognise a young man's search for meaning, you make him dull, unhappy and add to his frustrations. But if you presuppose that in this man, whoever he is, maybe a criminal, a juvenile delinquent or doing drug abuse, that there must be a spark for the search for meaning, then you will be able to elicit from him much more than he is worth at the moment. You will make him become what he in principle is capable of becoming,” says the neurologist and psychiatrist, who after WWII went on to be Professor of Neurology and Psychiatry at the University of Vienna.

Search for meaning

Viktor Frankl holds that every human being is primarily engaged not so much in the pursuit of happiness as he is in a search for meaning. Every one of us has a dream, a larger goal that we want to achieve. And once that meaning is uncovered, the best in man can be brought out.

Have we all not faced situations when we are willing to go through any trouble if we believe in the cause? Why do we say satisfaction at work is just as important? Happiness follows the meaning each one of us carves out in life. Frankl says we can discover meaning in life in three different ways: by creating a work or doing a deed — that is, through a certain accomplishment; by experiencing something or encountering someone such as goodness, beauty, truth, and by the attitude we take to unavoidable suffering.

A talk that can change the way we deal with the world.

(The talk can be accessed at

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