Faces on Faith: Mapping a meaningful life
“What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” asks the poet Mary Oliver. The lead article in a recent issue of “The Christian Science Monitor” focuses on the fact that many students in top Ivy League colleges are discovering the arduous climb to academic success hasn’t assured them a meaningful life. In fact, one of the most popular courses now offered at Smith College is titled: “Getting Unstuck When You Don’t Know What’s Next.” Kids are asking big life questions about how to be happy, and what happens next.
One thousand two hundred students at Yale University signed up for Professor Laurie Sanatos’ course, “Psychology and the Good Life.” Tulane University Assistant Director for Career Education Julia Lang thinks we’re at a tipping point. She asks: “How are we creating students who are prepared to become change agents in our society”? The article’s research makes clear the “overwhelming anxiety” and role of depression in college students, and suggests it’s related to “helicopter parenting” which has left students unable to make decisions or function independently. As a result, these same students are online constantly, adding to their stress and alienation.
I find it bewildering that very bright students need to be taught how to map out the steps for their life choices, since a meaningful life is so much more than executing tasks. In my day (ancient tho it would seem to today’s kids), we took courses on Plato and Aristotle, read the Great Books, with wonderful discussions led by thoughtful adults, who encouraged us to ask questions and think independently. Risk taking and mental exploration was implied. Wrestling with ambiguity is what we do all our adult life.
Writings from the three great religions suggest that a truly meaningful life includes an awareness or connection with a Supreme Being. Mary Baker Eddy’s textbook on “Christian Science, Science and Health With Key to the Scriptures,” advises: “Happiness would be more readily attained and more secure in our keeping, if sought in Soul.” II Timothy in the Bible also provides helpful direction and confidence: “For God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” In a super-charged materialistic age, meaning can’t be guaranteed by choosing the fattest paycheck. A more likely route to real meaning is discovering and engaging in a cause that is bigger than oneself.
June Sieber is affiliated with the Sanibel Christian Science Church.