Man’s search for meaning (in murdering): what I learned from reading a 500 page book about nazi doctors

 

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There’s a short book about finding meaning through suffering that many of you have read. It’s called Man’s Search for Meaning. It resonates with nearly everyone who reads it because Frankl writes directly into the human condition – the condition of suffering. It takes only 154 pages for Viktor Frankl to teach us how to transcend the unavoidable suffering that comes with being alive. 

There are many books about the survivors of atrocities, but only a few about the perpetrators. ‘The Nazi Doctors’ by Robert Jay Lifton is a book about the perpetrators of medical killing in the name of the nazi ideology. It’s a book about how healers became murderers.

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Biocracy. Cleansing. Sterilization. Hygienic Institute. These were the words that were used as sleight of hand maneuvers not to cover up the killings, but to make sure that everyone involved felt as if they were still healing, not murdering. The word healing began to take on a twisted irony. The killings were done in the name of “healing” the “national body” of the Aryan race. And who’s supposed to be responsible for all this “healing”? Doctors. Many of these doctors could find meaning in their murdering by convincing themselves that their actions were in the name of something greater than themselves – for the führer.

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Even the most useful psychological functions can be used by people with malicious intent.

My Most Ambitious Reading Project: The Collected Works of C.G Jung.

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Jung was a juggernaut.

Inspired by Poor Bjorn’s post about his reading the entire “Story of Civilization” by Will Durant, I’d like to share with you what I consider to be my most ambitious reading project: to read through the entire collected works of C.G Jung (The Bollingen Series as translated by RF.C Hull. Can you believe that just about every word that Jung wrote was translated by one person?)

There are 20 volumes in total (the last 2 are an index and bibliography) containing Jung’s commitment to think through millennia of myth and symbolism to explain what every good psychologist is supposed to explain: why we do what we do. 

So far, I’ve only read ‘Two Essays on Analytical Psychology’ which I found to be absolutely fascinating. Highly recommended for anyone even slightly interested in the nuances of human behavior.

This is going to take a long time. Not only because of the length of the books, but because the content in many of his books is difficult to understand (anima and animus, the mana personality, the syzygy –  to name just few esoteric concepts) and he frequently references other authors like Gothe, Freud, Nietzsche, Lao Tzu, and many other ancient scriptures and texts. And finally, because many of Jung’s sentences are so profound that it’s like being punched in the gut when you’re not prepared. You just have to take a minute to let the depth of what you’ve just read sink in. These are books that you can’t speed read.

But this goal has no due date. It’s part of a larger goal of mine, which is to read all the great books in the subjects that interest me the most. To name a few, this includes all the great books by Dostoevsky, Freud, Carl Rogers, Nietzsche, Seneca. On the business/productivity/21st century skill side, this includes all the great books by Tim Ferriss, Seth Godin, Ryan Holiday, Ray Dalio, Jocko Willink, and many others.

Is there a subject that you’re so passionate about, so enthralled by, that you want to read everything that was ever written on it? Let me know. I’d love to hear from you.

Wabi Sabi and Essentialism – Two Approaches to Quality

Everything and everybody is calling out for our attention. Respond to this email, take this job offering, apply to this college, read this book instead of that one, start a blog; no, don’t start a blog, don’t make another podcast, don’t get a regular job because freelancing is in vogue.

We no longer listen with our ears. We listen with our attention. And our attention is tone-deaf because of the incessant noise of everything and everybody demanding it. What and who should we listen to?

Ourselves. Our voice. The voice that we know best. The voice that’s drowned out by all the other voices.

Okay –  but how? How can we tell which demands for our attention – inner and outer – are worth ignoring? And when doing our work, how can we know what to keep and what to discard? How can we know what we’re trying to say? How can we know what our message really is?

Authors Beth Kempton and Greg McKeown know how.

In Wabi-Sabi, Beth Kempton approaches these questions from a more spiritual and poetic perspective, tying in stories from her life in Japan with rich observations on what it means to live a life of ‘imperfect imperfection.’ Her book reminds me how important it is to be okay with imperfections, especially when it comes to personal branding. (Emphasis should always be placed on the word ‘personal’) Though, the personal brings the imperfections – but that’s exactly what makes your work standout.

In Essentialism, Greg McKeown approaches these questions from the world of business and productivity. Essentialism is a framework that challenges us to be okay with cutting out the fluff from our work, to say no to many of the demands for our atrention.

Essentialism is a timeless book. No matter what project I start, I face the same problems as the last project: what should I keep, what should I discard? Should I make this? Who should I connect with? What if I’m not good enough? Why am I hindering my progress by ruminating on these questions?

These two books taught me that ‘enough’ is something I get to decide.

Have you read these books? Drop a comment. I’d love to hear from you.

Trappings – Walden and The Four-Hour Workweek

 

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Minimalism is not for everyone. No lifestyle is for everyone.

But damn is there some strong literature that suggests we take stock of everything that we own, and everything that we do, and ask ourselves, do I need this?

Do I need this job? That’s the question being asked in The Four-Hour Workweek.

But to this day, readers still think that Tim Ferriss is asking, do I need a job? Do I need a job and do I need this job are two different questions with two different answers: Yes to the former, no to the latter.

No to the latter because if you’re seriously considering the question, then the job has you trapped.

And trappings are exactly what Henry David Thoreau is writing about in the beginning of Walden – a book that Tim Ferriss recommended at the end of The Four-Hour Workweek. (An overlooked chapter of the book.)

The stronger we identify with possessions and habits, the thicker the chains. We often tell ourselves, “I’m this way. I can’t do it that way.” Or, “I’ve had this [object/habit] for years. Why give it up now?”

But underneath the question of “do I need this job?” is the question of, “why do I feel trapped by this job?”

And so you dig deeper, revealing to yourself all the ways in which you ended up in this position that you don’t like anymore. It’s a scary psychological place. It’s just not fun to admit to yourself that you’ve succeeded your way into a trap.

What to do? Return to the original question. Do I need this? 99 times out of 100, your first answer will be, “yes I need this because I need that.”

Then, something annoying happens.

A new question comes up.

“Wait,” you ask yourself. “Do I need that?”