The Quest for Meaning: A Practioner’s Narrative

Date of Completion


Document Type

Open Access Capstone

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

First Advisor

Delores B. Gallo


Postmodern visions describe an emerging global economy, worldwide mass media and increasingly diverse populations that ensure people will continually be better informed about the different points of view held around the world. This may liberate many of us from old ways of thinking that have kept us from breaking out of our defined roles and creating opportunities to experience whatever we might decide is the fulfillment of our true potential. However, these opportunities for increased human fulfillment will not come without a price. These same postmodern visions can illuminate challenges related to drastic change. The collapse of belief systems can threaten whole systems of social roles and the concepts of personal identity that depend upon them. With this can come a loss of meaning and direction in the lives of individuals. For me, a great deal of meaning and direction can be found within a life devoted to helping other people realize their own potential for a meaningful existence. The following case study is one effort I have made in this direction. It will describe a change process within the context of a course entitled the "Quest for Meaning". I was the facilitator of this course when it was offered at North Shore Community College, Beverly, MA in the fall of 1995 and in the spring of 1996. This change process created a major issue for me. I was taking over the responsibility for the facilitation of a course from retiring professor and close friend William Budd and wanted both to preserve his original intentions and express some of my own intellectual perspectives. Originally, this course was designed to help people searching for a personal worldview that could give their lives meaning and direction. It accomplished this by exploring a variety of outlooks as varied as Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism, New Age, and Atheism through the sharing of ideas with outside speakers from those perspectives. I wanted to add to that purpose another contribution. I wanted to help raise an awareness that the times in which we live are perhaps the most difficult so far in which to hold a worldview that can provide meaning and direction. Rather than react to fear and make futile attempts to ignore competing worldviews, I would encourage people to listen even more deeply to the views of others in the hopes of creating some kind of shared understanding. My intention is to make clear that one of my personal motives for choosing to facilitate the "Quest for Meaning" course was to help participants develop in areas consistent with Richard Paul's definitions of "traits of mind". It is my belief that every person is a unique individual and that the way to find or create meaning in his or her own life is to find or create their own unique path. It is also my belief that "the personal development of" or, as I prefer to say, "the nurturing attention to" various traits of mind can help many individuals, as I have been helped, to sense subtle and not-so-subtle nuances or signs that can define a person's life path. My conviction has been that a potential bridge between attempts to appreciate a variety of passionate worldviews offered by outside speakers and an increased ability for "Quest for Meaning" participants to understand and articulate their own evolving worldviews existed within a conscious awareness of this approach to the course.


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