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Reflections on the meaning of life

Reflections on the meaning of life

By Ivo Nardi


Riflessioni.it is the perfect place to stop and reflect on the meaning of life and we will do it through the answers that people of culture have given ten questions formulated by me.
Good reading.


Reflections on the meaning of life
Interview with Stanley Krippner

August 2010


Stanley Krippner is an American psychologist, and an executive faculty member and Professor of Psychology at Saybrook University in San Francisco. Formerly, Krippner was director of the Kent State University Child Study Center (of Kent, Ohio), and director of the Maimonides Medical Center Dream Research Laboratory (of Brooklyn, New York). Krippner is an internationally known humanistic psychologist, having written extensively on dreams, altered states of consciousness, hypnosis, shamanism, dissociation, and parapsychological subjects. Krippner was an early leader in Division 32 of the American Psychological Association, the division concerned with humanistic psychology, serving as President of the division from 1980 - 1981. He also served as president of division 30, the Society for Psychological Hypnosis, and is a Fellow of four APA divisions.


Reflections on the meaning of life

Stanley Krippner


1) Generally the big questions about life arise out of grief, illness, death and seldom during happy moments– which we all chase. What is happiness for you?

For me, happiness is being present in the moment. If I am excessively attached to the past, or am overly concerned about the future, my enjoyment and involvement in the present is diminished. Some moments are happier than others; but being mindful and aware of what is going on is part of the “flow” that permits me to live each moment as if it might be my last.


2) What is love for you?

There are many forms of love, including love of family, love of friends, love of significant others, love of Nature, love of ideals, and even self love.  But they all involve passion and/or commitment and/or intimacy; some types of love involve all three and some focus on one or two of these three.  But any form of love is to place another person’s well-being on an equal level as one’s own, and to extend oneself beyond one’s ordinary identity to encompass that of the beloved.  Love is transpersonal psychology in action because it is characterized by transcendence, whether through work, through play, through sex, through spiritual activities, through political activities, or simply through enjoying the presence of the beloved, whether the beloved be an animal, a person, Nature, God, or oneself. Acceptance of the beloved is a manifestation of love, including self-love.  One need not approve of the beloved’s actions or behaviours, but one can at least accept them as part of whom and what the beloved is.


3) How do you explain suffering in any form?

Suffering is part of life.  Suffering is not divine punishment, divine challenging, divine testing or any such nonsense. Life is not for the cowardly.  Sages such as the Buddha have given humanity specific activities and attitudes on how to cope with suffering. Following this advice can use suffering to make one stronger and wiser.


4) What is death for you?

Death is a part of the cycle of life. Living in the moment prepares us for death, which could happen at any time in a world where violence, terrorism, and natural catastrophes are common occurrences. If there is life after death, as in reincarnation, or attaining nirvana or salvation, that will be a continuation of the cycle.


5) We know we are born, we know we will die and within this temporal space we live and build up a route; for some this is lived consciously, for others unconsciously. What are your objectives in life and what do you do to realize them?

My life objectives are to live mindfully and consciously, learning from my errors, and trying to extend compassion and liberation to all sentient beings I encounter along the way.  I attempt to realize these objectives through my teaching, my writing, my workshops, and my political activism.


6) Do we have an existential project to perform?

Existentialism takes the position that we do not create our reality, but we construct our reality.  We may not be able to control what happens to us, but we are able to bring meaning to our experiences. This is the existential project that I attempt to perform, to be present, to find meaning in life experiences, and to live my life in a way that is compassionate and liberating...


7) We are social animals, our life would have no meaning without the others, notwithstanding that we live in an era where individualism is more exalted than ever. This brings about a social involution: what do you think of that?

There is a balance between focus on the community and on the individual. In many parts of the world, extreme individualism has thrown life out of balance.  In the United States, for example, we are suffering economically (as well as spiritually) because extreme individualism has exalted greed, power, and the accumulation of wealth beyond what would benefit the community-at-large. There are other parts of the world where the individual is ignored for the sake of what political leaders believe will enhance national goals.  In both cases, the dance of life has been blocked and in dire need of fluidity, flow, and liberation.


8) How can we recognize good and evil?

Sometimes it is not easy to talk about good and evil, especially when one is talking to a religious fundamentalist who claims to have all the answers.  However, I see “evil” as a separation from God, as acts performed out of ignorance rather than wisdom, and as a lack of concern for the forces that unify people with other people, with Nature, and with the Divine.  Good, therefore, is reflected in human behaviour that promote respect of other people, protection of Nature, and closeness with God, however that term may be defined. It is arrogant to use the terms “good” and “evil” to refer to earthquakes and other natural disasters, to the creation of the Universe, or to the hypothetical activities of the Divine.  Humans simply are not intelligent enough to make these attributions, and the religions that claim to be able to do so lack both humility and wisdom.


9) Man has always been distressed by the unknown. Religions, and afterwards philosophies with the aid of reason, gave him some help. What help did you have?

I had the good fortune of having loving parents. They were poor, but they used much of their money in the service of my sister and myself. They sent us to Sunday School every week where I was lucky enough to have instructors and members of the clergy who were intelligent and fairly open-minded (at least for Presbyterians). My parents also cared about my education, and I had excellent instructors both in high school and at the undergraduate and graduate levels, especially in philosophy. At the university, I attended services at the UnitarianChurch, which facilitated my opening to Eastern spiritual traditions, as well as to indigenous traditions, especially shamanism. Some of my favourite university courses emphasized scepticism, cross-cultural studies, and what we would today call transpersonal psychology.


10) What is for you the meaning of life?
There is no meaning of life aside from what we bring to it.  We construct life’s meaning with every attitude we take and every action we perform.  Most people do this unconsciously but we will enjoy life more if we are mindful of this process and make these decisions with as much full awareness as we can muster. When I make a mistake, which is far too often, I realize that I was not being mindful of my acts nor reflected upon them.  There is a constant interplay between living fully in the moment and being mindful of what we do; the major challenge of life is to entertain both of these processes, dancing from one to the other while relinquishing neither.

Versione italiana: Intervista a Stanley Krippner

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