Saturday, May 31, 2008

What do you live for?

I read an article over a month ago that still has me thinking. It was by Ken Potts in the Daily Herald. In it he is addressing teen suicide, but he refers to an important psychologist named Rollo May who says that too often we talk about the reasons why someone would take their own life and instead we should be talking about why the rest of us don't.
May contended that our society is doing an increasingly poor job in imparting to our young people any sense of positive meaning to life. We more often stress quick and easy answers, short-term reward, conspicuous consumption, getting ahead at the expense of others, ends justifying means.

Whether these values get played out in our families, our jobs, television, politics or organized religion; whether they lead to drug abuse, white collar crime, or "whoever dies with the most toys wins," the message eventually gets across to our youth: this is what life is all about.

"If, indeed, these do reflect our reason for living, is it any wonder that some of us choose not to?"... We as a society, and as parents, must begin to teach our children the values that we truly believe give meaning to life. Of course, we must have discovered these for ourselves if we are to pass them on to others.

May certainly offered no simple solution to the tragedy of adolescent suicide. In fact, he predicted they will continue. Yet he did suggest that there is hope if we can begin to more clearly express to our youth that there are indeed reasons to live.

Young people are in such a bubble during their high school and college years. They don't really have a meaningful place in our society anymore. Years ago, a young person would be expected to help the family by earning income, helping around the farm or running the family store or business, but now young people work to earn their own spending money usually at a large corporate conglomerate (Old Navy-Gap-BR, etc...) There is less of an opportunity for them to feel as though they are a meaningful part of their community or family. That is one of the goals I have for our community service experience. I want to help students realize that there is necessary and meaningful work to be done, and they can do it. What do you think? Is there a meaningful gap in young people's lives? Does community service help to fill this gap in meaning in young people's lives? And if it is not related to community service, what do you live for? Where is the meaning in your life?


  1. I live for love. I think that we are all manifestations of a loving creator. The universe and nature is always growing, nurturing, creating. If we are in tune with that very core being of our existence we can begin to foster it, feed it and nurture it ourselves. I start by loving myself. That means taking care of my physical, mental, spiritual health. Then I can provide love, caring and nurturing to my family and friends: my wife, my kids, my extended family. Then I try to extend that caring and nurturing to my community: my work (students, faculty and staff) and my neighbors. Then, I focus on the lives of my larger community: people I interact with, volunteering, a random person on the street. Like the poet W.H. Auden, "We must love one another or die." We are all a part of humanity together. We are all connected the way the drops of water in the ocean are connected. That is why I live.

  2. Why should I live? Why should anyone? Why should I have a purpose?

    I tried to end it, and yet I'm still around. What made me turn back? I still don't really know. But I'm here and I know that deep down, I never really wanted to stop living.

  3. this reminded me of that racial article you had us read...

  4. I also, live for love.

    Thank you for the class, Sal, it was a blast.