Why are we here? To flourish, wrote Aristotle.
This helps make life a bit simpler. Why would you do something that leads you away from your destiny?
Epic poems where heroes seek to flourish:
- The Odyssey (excerpt) by Homer, trans. Emily Wilson. The journey of a warrior family’s dangerous path to reunite and reintegrate after a long war. (Hint: One reason this poem has been kept around is because the heroes challenges represent real life challenges in a veteran’s journey and a military caregiver’s journey It wasn’t about just getting home, it was about who you became in getting home.)
- The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge (links to full poem at the Poetry Foundation) Consider the masterful book about this poem, Mariner, by Malcolm Guite.
Short poems to support you setting a positive purpose (even in tough times):
- The Cure at Troy, (excerpt) Sophocles (translated by Seamus Heaney)
- Who will I become today? , Allegra Jordan
- I am not I by Juan Ramón Jiménez (trans. Robert Bly)
- Eudamonia (Flourishing), Allegra Jordan
- Becoming Joy, Allegra Jordan
- Cardiff Bay, Allegra Jordan
- Leadership and joy are byproducts of a well-lived life, Allegra Jordan
Essays about poems that help us remember we may have more choice than we think we do:
- Exposure by Seamus Heaney, which marked a turning point for the Nobel-prize winning poet. Here are links to the poem and explanation of how he wrestled with his community which was tearing itself apart.
- Every Grain of Sand by Bob Dylan – Lyrics and essay
- The Stare’s Nest by W. B. Yeats – Poem and essay
Other resources about how humans establish and move towards positive purpose even amidst the unbearable and irreversible.
Purposeful living even in the face of great challenges:
- Dr. Ray Barfield, a pediatric palliative care doctor (St. Judes & Duke) discusses ‘the goal’ even at the end of life.
- Marguerite Barankitse’s Maison Shalom, Opus prize winner for the Top Faith-Based Social Entrepreneur and 2016 Aurora Prize Winner, demonstrates an “all love” and “no excuses” approach to purposeful living, even amidst war and genocide.
- Scarlett Lewis, whose son Jesse Lewis was killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School started the Jesse Lewis Choose Love movement.
- Angelina Atyam, winner of the UN Human Rights Prize, created a counter culture in Uganda to interrupt a cycle of genocide and identity politics.
- John Finley IV and Epiphany School created “a new we” that never gives up on kids.
- Sr. Mathias and Sr. Peter-Paul of the Maria Goretti Girl’s Training Centre, Uganda found purpose and advocacy when they decided to help abused girls flourish.
- Thich Nhat Hahn who Martin Luther King, Jr. nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, teaches the art of peace and awareness.
- The many military families of Rick’s Place. Children of Special Forces at Ft. Bragg have never known a peacetime military. They are creating a wholesome reintegration community to help people return – time and again – from down range.
Positive purpose authors
- The writings of Jack Kornfield
- The writings of Brene Brown
- The poetry, lectures and books of Malcolm Guite
- The works of Seamus Heaney
- The writings of Emmanuel Katongole
- The Great Lakes Institute, a consortium of reconciliation leaders formed by the Duke Center for Reconciliation
Please note: Many of the above humans are also great reconcilers. Reconciliation does not mean being in a relationship with a person who is abusive, pathological, or otherwise harmful. The purpose of relationships are to help a community flourish.