Smith says that there are "four pillars of meaning: belonging, purpose, storytelling, and transcendence." In Belonging, the stories of the residents of Tangier in Chesapeake Bay and the members of the Society of Creative Anachronism were provided as examples. Both groups of people had a place where they belonged - one group was born into their neighborhood while the other was a group created out of similar interests. In order to belong, it is said that you must look at others before yourself and reach out to them. Loneliness is a critical part in being unhappy but if you are able to have support, love, and interactions with people that you care about, then you are one step closer to finding meaning in your life. Then, we get to Purpose. Finding our "calling" or knowing how we can contribute to society is a great source of "purpose," but not everyone has a calling and it is not the only factor. People who see their jobs as a way to help others find their jobs as "meaningful" even if they don't love it. Finding purpose, unlike belonging, starts with ourselves and figuring out what we are good at, what we want to do, and what we need to do. Storytelling, the third pillar, "emerges from a deep-seated need all humans share: the need to make sense of the world (104)." Narrative identity and coherence are key elements in finding meaning in our lives. Once we make sense of who we are and understand critical life events that have shaped us, we not only reflect on those moments by sharing our stories, we help others by connecting with them. Finally, the fourth pillar, Transcendence refers to when we are at peace... when we are able to connect to everything that is around us... when we are just able to accept life and its meanings, and even death. The stories involved those who transcended from meditating, by focusing on their environment, and even from taking drugs like magic mushrooms.
Simple acts of kindness, social interaction, listening and caring, acknowledging the people around you and your environment are acts of building the pillars to a fulfilling life. It's sounds like a no brainer but the book was a nice reminder of all there is to life. I enjoyed reading the different stories - it really helps put things into perspective and reflect on what priorities you might have or have forgotten about. Everyone has a different road to find meaning; not one path is the right one. All the different stories connect us, let us view life from different perspectives, and give us things to think about. I think this book would be a good starter for those who question life's meaning, want to and want to start somewhere. It's not going to give you answers but it's starts you off with questions and topics to think about.
I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.