The Search for Meaning

“Strangely enough, meaning can come from the search for meaning. When I have a real question, I have something that directs me.  That kind of question can really bring meaning to my life because it makes me inquire. It makes me try to understand.”
– Philosopher Jacob Needleman

Emma Fladeboe
Emma Fladeboe

I believe the most rewarding part of the Washington, D.C. trip will be what I get out of the process of finding out what I really want to know from those we interview. This is what I think this journey is going to be, a “search for meaning.” I believe that the process of our research and developing questions will be an essential part of that search. By the time we have refined our questions to what we truly care about learning from these individuals, the process of discernment about what we want to know could be as beneficial as the actual answers to the questions.

The second essential part of the “meaning” of the trip will be these individuals speaking with us in such a personal way. It is rare that people my age have the opportunity to sit face to face and engage with such important people. Until our interview with former Secretary of State, George Schultz, the names of the individuals we are going to interview did not register with me as more than important titles. It was when we sat down with Secretary Schultz that I realized a pivotal and more subtle nuance to this trip. I listened to his anecdotes and stories about his interactions with Gorbachev and President Reagan at a conference, and about his relationships with President Nixon and other impressive individuals that constitute his repertoire of colleagues. The way in which he recounted his many experiences reflected importance of personal relationships.  As a result, these names and faces I have seen in the paper, or that I read about in history began to take on a different meaning for me. I realize these are more than famous names. They are people. They have a sense of humor, and personalities, and weaknesses and strengths. They make mistakes.

I believe the building of relationships with those we interview in Washington, DC will bring so much meaning and value to our experience. It will help us realize that we all have more in common than we think. We can learn to understand and be aware of different perspectives rather than reacting to them for lack of alignment with our own beliefs. We can learn to be more sensitive and understanding. We can, to use a phrase that is often used in our Values class, “Let our curiosity be greater than our criticality.” This is what this Washington, D.C. trip will be for me. I intend to approach it with an open mind, and use this experience as a means to become more informed of the views and perspectives of others. I hope to develop my capacity as a more understanding and aware individual. I intend to bear witness the beliefs and ideas of others in order to inquire into, and form my own values. This will be my search.

-Emma Fladeboe