“MEANING IS NOT SOMETHING YOU STUMBLE ACROSS, LIKE THE ANSWER TO A RIDDLE OR THE PRIZE IN A TREASURE HUNT. MEANING IS SOMETHING YOU BUILD INTO YOUR LIFE. YOU BUILD IT OUT OF YOUR OWN PAST, OUT OF YOUR AFFECTIONS AND LOYALTIES, OUT OF THE EXPERIENCE OF HUMANKIND AS IT IS PASSED ON TO YOU, OUT OF YOUR OWN TALENT AND UNDERSTANDING, OUT OF THE THINGS YOU BELIEVE IN, OUT OF THE THINGS AND PEOPLE YOU LOVE, OUT OF THE VALUES FOR WHICH YOU ARE WILLING TO SACRIFICE SOMETHING. THE INGREDIENTS ARE THERE. YOU ARE THE ONLY ONE WHO CAN PUT THEM TOGETHER INTO THAT UNIQUE PATTERN THAT WILL BE YOUR LIFE. LET IT BE A LIFE THAT HAS DIGNITY AND MEANING FOR YOU. IF IT DOES, THEN THE PARTICULAR BALANCE OF SUCCESS OR FAILURE IS OF LESS ACCOUNT.”
John W. Gardner, “Personal Renewal“
Hi, I’m Tyler, and I want you to live a good life.
But what does that mean, exactly? Wealth? Happiness? Success? Philosophers have been attempting to answer this question for thousands of years.
Plato might tell you that it is the pursuit of wisdom.
Epicurus, eliminating fear and suffering.
And Kant, being a virtuous individual.
There are countless opinions on this topic. While practitioners of different philosophies may disagree on the specific tenets, there are two universal pieces to the good life puzzle, regardless of who is putting it together. Using the quote from above:
1. The ingredients are there.
Reflection – What are the “ingredients” to living YOUR life well?
2. You are the only one who can put them together into that unique pattern that will be your life.
Realization – How will you give those ingredients presence in your life?
Every school of thought first had to consider what life meant to them, then live in a way that reflected their views. I don’t believe that there are any right or wrong answers to these questions. There are only YOUR answers. You don’t need to be a modern-day Socrates to find them. But it does require you to make time to stop and think about the big questions, and to live in alignment with the answers to those questions. Reflection is sorely undervalued, and essential to deliberate living. When we don’t take time to reflect, we lose sight of what truly matters. But when you know what life really means to you, it gives you the ability to live intentionally.
To create meaningful experiences that challenge people intellectually, emotionally, physically, and socially.
To give people tools to reflect on these experiences and cultivate a contemplative mindset as a life skill.
And, as a result, to facilitate personal growth, in the form of beliefs, values, skills, knowledge, and attitudes.
I want to create spaces where people can learn about themselves, by asking the Big Questions, like:
How do I want to live my life ?
What do I value?
What do I want to contribute to the world?
I want to give people opportunities to create, play, share, explore, and learn.
I can’t tell you what a good life should mean to you, nor do I want to. But I do want to create means for you to discover, and live it, yourself.
My first experiment in providing these experiences is called The Land.
I believe that lessons are better absorbed and retained when they are presented in a context beyond our day-to-day activities, whether that’s through stories, new environments, or new experiences. It’s part of why children’s books are so powerful, why team-building programs take place outside, and why high schools organize trips to different countries. When ideas are delivered in a different format or in an unfamiliar place, we can approach them from a fresh perspective, then bring them with us as we move forward.
Reflection is not always a natural or intuitive act. The word itself cringe-inducing for some. The Land is a way to create a more accessible means to explore these Big Questions. This project is an amalgamation of my interest in philosophy, my love of children’s literature, and my work as an experiential educator (which you can read more about here). Contemplation and growth are the intended goals, but without an engaging experience, reflection won’t happen.
So, The Land is my way of making spaces and experiences that are unique, fun, and challenging. Told from the perspective of the denizens of this fictional world, each experience will revolve around the story of an individual seeking the same things we do in our own lives: purpose, connection, fulfillment…
In sharing these stories, I want to pose these questions in a less conspicuous and more engaging manner than simply blurting them out. In this way, I hope to give people an exciting starting point for self-examination, and finding ways to pursue the things that matter to us.
- Reflection is an essential part of the human experience. Experience followed by contemplation leads to growth.
- We owe it to ourselves to discover who we are and what matters to us.
- We deserve to live fulfilling lives.
- Challenge #1: We Get Caught Up In Our Own “Busyness”
Between work, gym, kids, errands, and other obligations, there is little down time in the day. When the day is over, we go to bed, wake up, and do it again. When we don’t take a moment to slow down, we can lose sight of what is important to us.
As Ferris Bueller says, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it.”
- Challenge #2: Reflection Is an Undervalued Aspect of Experience
Many people are not naturally reflective. While humans have the inherent ability to contemplate, it is still very much a skill that has to be practiced and honed. There are few institutions that actively encourage individuals to consider their experiences and what they mean in relation to the individual’s life. Reflection is rarely taught as a skill. While self-reflection may be instinctive for some, others do not naturally contemplate their experiences on a regular basis.
- Challenge #3: Access to Contemplative Experiences
Participating in activities that teach processing give individuals a better grasp on self-reflection. In reference to Problem #2, certainly programs and organizations already exist that encourage self-examination. Retreats and seminars lead by coaches are available in locations around the world. Team-building programs are often part of a school’s curriculum and are also delivered to corporate groups. The former leaves out those who can’t afford them (retreats and seminars often cost thousands), and the latter isn’t available to those that are not already part of an established group. There is little in the way of guided contemplative experiences for individual without necessary funds.
- Challenge #4: We Need an Outlet for Thoughts and Ideas.
Often times, our minds become echo chambers. Guided reflection allows us to clarify thoughts, and even recognize thoughts that we weren’t previously aware of. When we verbalize, write, or express our thoughts in other ways, and with other people, we make them more concrete.
- Challenge #5: We Don’t Always Feel Like We Can Be Ourselves
Whether it’s restrictions at work, personal obligations, or established norms, we find reasons to not express ourselves genuinely. To play, to be creative, to share ideas.
I hope to achieve this mission and address these challenges through The Land.
To view my current projects, click here.
If you would like to know more about this project, contact me.