WHY do you live? On never giving up


Viktor Frankl, a psychiatrist who survived the Nazi concentration camps, asked a shocking question of his patients after he was released: “Why don’t you kill yourself?”

Frankl’s short, moving book Man’s Search for Meaning should be required reading for every human being on the planet. In the Nazi camps, they lost everything: clothes, papers, jewelry, family, hope, food…what was left to live for? Some inmates saw nothing and died. Some, under the same conditions, saw something to live for and lived. Frankl was trying to get his patients to recognize and express why they lived.

Since the devastating crash of 2008, suicide rates are up in America and Europe. After the fall of the Soviet Union and economic looting of Russia by the Western “democrats” Russians began to die much younger and ceased reproducing at a replacement level. The demographic crisis is immensely serious; it could be the end of Russia. Why is it happening? The Russians lost hope, they did not see what they had to live for.

As a former mental health professional, I know the signs of depression; that most dangerous and curable of mental illnesses. I experienced some after losing my job in the Crash of 2008. I lost my job just before Lehman Bros went down in September 2008, but didn’t start thinking I might not get hired again until February 2009, when I heard that another half million people had lost their jobs that month.

This crash was bad. We don’t yet clearly see how bad, because we just don’t talk about such things in polite society. A big part of losing my job was being broke, of course, but it wasn’t the worst part. Work colleagues provide a social network. Now you are isolated. My work was rewarding (helping young people get jobs and job training.) Now what good was I doing anyone? WHY was I living?

I never got another decent job and at my age I realize I never will. Why then am I living? Well, am I a human being or a human doing? Because the powers-that-shouldn’t-be think I am superfluous, should I agree with them? I suspect many people have quietly given up, especially when certain politicians and pundits brand them as “lazy” or “takers.”

This is not merely cruel. It is an evil way to treat folks who have worked hard all their lives. The unemployed folk have no control over the economy. They are unemployed because of someone else’s choices.

Why do they live? Many do not. They either give up, like Frankl’s fellow inmates, and succumb to disease or they commit suicide more directly.

Why do you live? This is a very personal question and will require a very personal answer. The answer must go beyond money-making, it must go beyond position and prestige, it must go beyond material possessions-all these can be taken away from you, but YOU remain.


There never has been and never will be another person exactly like you.

You are immensely valuable.

Never give up.


  1. Great piece! I think too often we undervalue lives that don’t fit into our mold of making money and buying things. Nobody, whether rich or poor, is just a statistic, and we are all responsible for each other. Thanks for the inspiration!

    1. Thanks for the comment. The value of a human being is a very important question! The value of EVERY human being. 🙂

  2. It’s difficult sometimes to see the turn that attitudes have taken in this country. People have much more value than their occupation or income. (or lack thereof)

    I don’t think I have ever felt quite as worthless and inadequate as I have these last two years, as we struggle to find a place to live, and simply stay together as a family. Rents have gotten astronomically high, food has almost doubled in price, and sometimes I’m very much afraid our life will always be this way, my family of 3 all squeezed into a sleeping room, packed into a small apartment like sardines with roommates.

    Meanwhile there is a Hud subsidized apartment building half a block down the street that always has several vacancies. Even being disabled and on a fixed income, I still can’t get an apartment there because I’m not old enough for any of the subsidized units that are presently open. The disabled, even if they have little to no income, have to stand in line, on a 10 year waiting list, if the waiting list is even open at all.

    Trying not to give up, but it’s getting harder and harder…

    1. I feel you. I was a professional and am quite poor now-though I try to remember what my Pop said “If you have enough and something to share, you are rich.” Some millionaires don’t have enough and won’t share and therefore we are richer than they.

      We all have SOMETHING to share. Find that something and share it.

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