“Lives of Meaning” is a club here at Deerfield Academy run by students and supported by Mr. Jan Flaska, the Dean of Spiritual and Ethical Life. As explained by Mr. Flaska, the club’s intention is to “examine the life we are living in order to live it well.” The members of the club hail from many different faiths, including Theravada Buddhism, Catholic Christianity, Protestant Christianity, Hinduism, Sunni Islam, and Reformed Judaism. Lives of Meaning enables students to share their own unique, valuable perspectives, enriching their own lives and the lives of others.
Mr. Flaska further explained, “[The club aims to provide] a safe and supportive space to assess one’s life through a lens that acknowledges our human existence as inextricably linked, both to those that have cared for us and for our environment in the past, and to who we will be to those that we meet in the future. In a word, Lives of Meaning builds community.”
To Sally Siripiphat ’17, the club exposes students to various religions to foster diverse understanding. For example, Siripiphat explained that the group sometimes meditates and listens to Hindu songs to gain enriching lessons from a wide range of exposure.
As a group, the members have realized the importance of seeking understanding from multiple perspectives as part of that process.
Siripiphat stated, “There are probably many paths that lead you to their own meaning of life. It’s about understanding other religions and yourself.” With each background bringing a unique experience and perspective, Siripiphat highlighted her own experience of being a Buddhist from Thailand, which she learned through the club, is different in practice than being a Buddhist from Japan.
She further explained, “There is beauty in this individuality, which the club acknowledges in its explicitly pluralistic approach where participants regularly ponder the great questions of human existence and experience…. acknowledging many paths to a transformative destination, and many names for that unified and essential presence somewhere beyond this moment, somehow seeking to be known.”