We all find ourselves at some point of our lives looking for meaning, getting inside ourselves and trying to find the reason why we are even alive. At childhood we begin to seek our place in the world, making an effort to understand which our roles are. From that moment on we need to feel that we belong somewhere, that we have love and people who find us irreplaceable. It’s not selfish to feel this way. In fact, this quest for meaning is absolutely necessary because our wellbeing depends on it and because we are bound to play a role among others within the society. Such role executed by the wrong person may not serve its purpose as well as it should. For all of these reasons we have to look for significance as long as we live and it can be found where is least expected. At least that is my perspective for there are people who have tried and achieved to find this subtle meaning on their own lives, people such as Wangari Maathai, Parker Palmer, John O’Donohue, Rumi and Joe Carter. First there’s activist and writer Wangari Maathai, a woman from Africa. She was born April 1, 1940. Maathai came from Kikuyu descent though she was also part Christian and belonged to the Green Belt Movement, one of the reasons for which she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
Maatahai studied at the University of Nairobi and became the first woman to be chairman of the Veterinary medicine department. Something particular about her is that she found several difficulties along the way and was able to overcome them. For instance, she had to face Daniel Arap Moi, once president of Kenya. Arap Moi wanted to clean a whole Kenyan forest to start a luxury housing project and she opposed him, ending up jailed. She knew how necessary the trees were for her people and because of this she couldn’t allow for the forest to be thrown down. She found a profound significance in the trees, they symbolized tools and resources things that according to her could make a nation either grow or perish. In addition to empowering her nation with means, what kept her going was illustrating her people, defending women’s rights and encouraging civil leadership. She found her aim in raising her voice and not only speaking up but working towards what she believed was right. The second person is Parker Palmer, born in 1939 in Chicago. He is a writer, activist and teacher who also founded the national Center for Courage and Renewal and has been a senior partner of it until today.
Although he now serves as Senior Advisor to the Fetzer Institute as well. Palmer dedicated his life to teach people about vocation and the importance of claiming true self. After his own experience suffering from depression for several years, Palmer realized that he was digging his own grave by being who he was expected to be and not who he wanted to and thus began seeking what he was really meant to do. This is the reason why today he encourages people to be true to themselves and teaches them that it is alright to be just who and how they want to be. In fact, he’s proven that it’s necessary for us to be able to fulfill our place in the world in the most proper manner. In his view, there is a special sense in being able to live life plentifully and play our roles in society nicely. Another admirable character is John O’Donohue, who was a resigned Irish priest and a poet. He was born January 1, 1956. O’Donohue spent his life reflecting on beauty and how necessary it is in our lives. His visions of beauty are greatly inspiring; he was one of those people who believe that beauty is in the eye of the holder and nowhere else. Most importantly he referred to beauty as a way of finding our aim in life; he assured that when we find a focus, something that is precious and beautiful to us, we find faith and motivation to go on with our lives. He was fixated in the exquisiteness of landscape and music as well. He had the understanding that when we feel completely in tone with the natural space around us, when we feel we belong right there, our lives are more plentiful.
Certainly O’Donohue himself felt in tone with his native landscape Limestone for he seems to have had a fulfilling life. Going back to music, he saw that this artistic expression was something musicians give themselves completely to. He found wonderful the fact that in moments they lose themselves so much in it that they don’t serve a master other than the music. In some way, that beautiful embrace between their souls and the music is the hint of how significant playing is for them. The fourth person is Rumi, a Muslim poet, theologian, jurist and Sufi mystic from the 1200’s. Mevlana as he was known in Europe spent his life giving speeches and discussing about love. Rumi called love the urge to change and search a connection with the divinity that created us. According to him this process of evolution has one purpose, the acknowledgement of God who is the beginning and the end, in other words the Alfa and the Omega. Rumi took both a divine and a human approach to love although to him they were both the same. Rumi also had a fascination toward the whirling dervishes. He saw in the whirling a focus, a way to keep moving while still on one place which signified being able to do thousands of things without forgetting our objective. Basically the sense of his life was based on showing what in his perspective love was about and encouraging people to love one another.
The last person is Joe Carter, a writer, performer, educator and humanitarian who was born in 1946. Carter traveled around the world showing the “Negro Spiritual” to millions of people, a kind of music created by slaves from before the Civil war. Carter performed several times this genre which has had influence on rhythms like jazz, gospel and blues, rock and roll, and rap. In addition, Carter reflected very much on the power of the spirituals and found in the retrospective of getting on his elders’ shoes some of his own identity as Negro. He was moved by his ancestors’ way of living and found a profound motivation on their songs. It could be said he found in them strength, a way to survive. This music was to him the outlet his people used when they were overwhelmed by life’s burdens and he proudly shared this with those he met throughout his life. In conclusion, similar to Maathai, Palmer, O’Donohue, Rumi and Carter all of us can find meaning in the most overt places and spaces of our lives. We can find our aim in writing, in nature, in music, in love and serving one another. There’s a deep significance in doing what you are meant to do, feeling atone with nature or music and giving love to the people who are special to us. What’s necessary is to get a hold of whatever is meaningful to us and use that special something in ours and others’ behalf.