This document outlines a set of challenges for the future of meaning, purpose, identity and spiritualty, focusing not just in the western world but also global issues and contexts across the world, society and the life span. In doing so, the intention is to establish a basis for an inspired conversation and journey of change for the better. This paper draws upon a journey that many people have been involved in, from many different contexts, throughout history- philosophers, educators, researchers, colleagues in professional organizations and universities, colleagues who work with students every day in classrooms around the world, colleagues in health services and institutions, colleagues in the business sector, social justice, science, marketing, commerce, media, the arts - people in every sector of society, including faith and spiritual paths. What this document seeks to capture are the issues, challenges and opportunities individuals, educators, health workers, institutions, governments, social justice, commerce, business, communities at large, the arts, and science, policy makers and humanity now need to address.
Humans are meaning-seekers. Meaning, purpose, identity and spirituality are crucial and oftentimes implicit in every area of our lives, from birth to death, for each and every one of us, in every part of the world and across all societies. These concepts are intimately connected in terms of our functioning as healthy human beings and are crucial to our health, happiness, fulfillment and wellbeing, throughout life. Hence this paper groups them together.
In our world today little attention is paid to the significance of our lives, i.e., to our sense of meaning, purpose, identity and spirituality. We are taught, and incentivized, to focus on 'profit' making, on competition, to be caught up in 'issues' such as wars & conflict, to amass possessions, to create wealth and to cultivate a desirable body/image. Are we caught in glamour? These foci are creating illness and distress for many human beings across the world.
The purpose of this paper, therefore, is to explore how to raise our awareness of, embed and make explicit, the significance of meaning, purpose, identity and spirituality (MPIS) within every aspect of our lives. To take education as an example: How do we educate students about MPIS in primary and secondary education (as opposed to just religion)? How do we ensure that, on their journey through the education system, active attention is given to each learner's sense of meaning, purpose, identity and spirituality? This remains a challenge, and is highly problematic and politicized, in many countries. Education (at all levels), and the communities in which we live, remain the principal wellsprings of meaning for all of us as we grow and develop. These contexts provide essential skills and social engagement around our identity, the meaning and purpose of our lives and our spirituality. MPIS is, to an extent that we rarely acknowledge, the foundation for everything else we do as a society, in education, health, businesses, commerce and government.