How to Craft a Life Worth Living | Matthew Croasmun

Matthew CroasmunWhat truly matters most in life? How would you answer that question?

Maybe you imagine a life filled with rich relationships, meaningful work or making a positive impact on others. Or perhaps you picture financial freedom that allows you to pursue your passions. There are as many answers to this question as there are people asking it.

Matthew Croasmun, a Yale lecturer and co-author of the instant New York Times bestseller “Life Worth Living: A Guide to What Matters Most”, believes the answer lies in living a life of love. But determining how to do that and what that actually looks like can be both elusive and challenging.

We’ve all had moments where we wonder if we’re on the right path, if what we think matters aligns with what actually does. Navigating this complex question is an ongoing journey of self-discovery and reflection. And understanding what makes up a flourishing life that has purpose beyond fleeting pleasures or superficial gains can be elusive.

Matthew Croasmun’s new book, Life Worth Living: A Guide to What Matters Most, is based on a course he has been co-teaching for years at Yale. The course aims to guide students in answering one of life’s most pressing questions: how are we to live? The very same class that, in the opening lecture, he informs students, “This class just might ruin your lives.” And, as we discuss, he means that in the best of ways.

A noted theologian and pastor, Matthew joins the podcast to discuss pursuing a life of meaning and purpose amid competing demands and influences that often tell us the wrong things matter. In our conversation, we explore questions like: What makes a life truly worth living? How can we discern what is worth wanting in life? And how do we develop the wisdom to navigate life’s challenges with truth, love and humility?

Does exploring these questions resonate with your own desire to live a richer, more meaningful life?

You can find Matthew at: Website | Life Worth Living

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photo credit: Christopher Capozziello


Episode Transcript:

Matthew Croasmun (00:00:00) – We need one another. We need people who won’t necessarily share our answers to the question of the good life, but they share our questions. There is something uniquely powerful about community built around shared questions. We have lots of ways of phrasing the question, right? What is a life worth living? Or What is a good life? Or what is the shape of flourishing life? But one way that I’ve really starting to appreciate these days is what sort of life would be worthy of our shared humanity. I think it’s in part just because of that shared ness, right? Of course there is something irreducibly particular and individual. We’re each going to come to our own answers. But there’s something powerful about as a group of people, a community convened just for a moment to take up this question with this shared question about can we think a little bit about the worthiness of our shared humanity? How do I lean into that? What’s really the center of that?

Jonathan Fields (00:00:54) – So what truly matters in life? How would you answer that question? Maybe you imagine a life filled with rich relationships, meaningful work, or making a positive impact on others.

Jonathan Fields (00:01:05) – Or perhaps you picture a financial freedom that allows you to pursue your passions. There are as many answers to this question as there are people asking it. And my guest today, Matthew Crossman, a Yale lecturer and co author of the Instant New York Times bestseller Life Worth Living, A Guide to What Matters Most. He believes the answer lies in living a life of love, But determining how to do that and what that actually looks like can be both elusive and challenging. We have all had moments where we wonder if we’re on the right path, if what we think matters aligns with what actually does. And navigating this complex set of questions is an ongoing journey of self discovery and reflection and understanding what makes up a flourishing life that has purpose beyond fleeting pleasures or superficial gains. It can be elusive. So Matthew’s new book, Life Worth Living, is based on a course that he has actually been co-teaching for years at Yale, and that course aims to guide students in answering one of life’s most pressing questions How are we to live that very same class that, by the way, the opening lecture, he informed students this class just might ruin your lives.

Jonathan Fields (00:02:19) – And as we discuss, he means that in the best of ways. A noted theologian and pastor Matthew joins a podcast to really discuss pursuing a life of meaning and purpose and made competing demands and influences that often tell us the wrong things matter. And in our conversation we go deep into the questions, the big questions, the meaningful questions, the ones that really elicit exploration. That takes us down a path to awareness and insight. Things not just like what makes a life truly worth living, but how can we discern what is worth wanting in life, and how do we develop the wisdom to navigate life’s challenges with truth, love and humility? So if exploring these questions and getting to the root, the heart of what really makes life good resonates with your own desire to live a richer, meaningful life. So excited to share this conversation with you. I’m Jonathan Fields and this is Good Life Project. As we have this conversation. It’s an interesting time to be exploring the notion of a life worth living based around a course that you’ve been co-teaching for a number of years at Yale.

Jonathan Fields (00:03:36) – And it’s really around this question of like, what is a life worth living? What is a good life? Which is interesting to me also because one of the other wildly popular courses at the same institution that you teach is based on happiness. And I’m always fascinated around the conversation between happiness versus living a good life. Tease this out a little bit for me.

Matthew Croasmun (00:03:57) – Yeah, it can be natural to assume that a good life is a happy life. That those are even that you can meet in one of two ways. Either that a good life, whatever else it is, it is also a happy life. Or we could draw an even tighter distinction and suggest that a good life simply is a happy life, that they’re exactly the same thing. There’s nothing else that can be said about a good life, that it is happy and that anything else that it happens to be is just in order to make it happy. Right? Looking across the scope of human history and across traditions around the world, it seems that at least we can say this Not everyone has thought that that’s not a universal human instinct, that the happy life and the good life are the same thing, or even necessarily that the good life is always a happy life.

Matthew Croasmun (00:04:48) – So we like to pull those apart a little bit When we ask about a good life, maybe we’re asking about at least three things. Maybe we’re asking about, yeah, how a good life might feel. Maybe there’s maybe happiness comes in there, though there may be other ways that we would describe a good life feeling. Maybe a good life is a life of contentment. Or Oscar Wilde makes a case. Maybe a good life is a life that’s full of sorrow because that’s just the way the world actually is. And that’s what it would be to respond rightly to the world. But we could also ask about what does it mean for us to lead our lives? Well, well, what should we Maybe a good life is about what we do or how we seek to show up in the world. But we could also ask about what does it mean for life to go well and we could think about life’s circumstances. So all this say for us, we’re inclined to think, at least in principle, to try to leave everyone in the conversation.

Matthew Croasmun (00:05:41) – We’d want to broaden out the question of the good life to include, yes, feelings and emotions and affect, but also circumstances in agency and to let different voices put the emphasis in different places and even sort of define each of those aspects for each of those dimensions differently.

Jonathan Fields (00:05:59) – Yeah, that makes a lot of sense to me. I’ve been fascinated by sort of like the there’s a, there’s a canon of happiness, both research and books and talks and videos out there. And a lot of it was kicked off in a more public way, I think, back when Dan Gilbert came out with stumbling on happiness and all of a sudden everyone was just talking about it, stop. And then you see a cascade of things happening and it became almost like the centerpiece. And then you start to see all these featured articles in big magazines saying like, Is this really what we should be focusing on? Actually, Is this causing more suffering than if we were focusing on something else? And it seems like there is actually some research to support that idea as well.

Matthew Croasmun (00:06:37) – Even if what we prize most in life is for life to feel a certain way, and even if that way is something like happiness or joy, it seems to turn out that happiness or joy are the sorts of things that they seem to recede away from us as we pursue them directly. It seems like their best found sort of indirectly by seeking after some other good things, something some relationships that are really, really important to us or some cause or some project, something bigger than ourselves that we want to invest ourselves in. And joy or happiness may be sort of indirect consequences of those sorts of investments in ways that if we sit here stressing ourselves out about trying to be happy, we may find that happiness actually leads us.

Jonathan Fields (00:07:29) – Yeah, I almost feel like for so many it can end up actually bringing shame into the equation because we feel like we’re supposed to feel this like things. If I look at my life objectively, things are just going so well. According to all the outer metric I’m supposed to be imagining by, like I should be happy.

Jonathan Fields (00:07:47) – And then the fact that I’m not actually then layer shame on top of the fat back did not. And it just becomes this negative spiral rather than being constructive in any way.

Matthew Croasmun (00:07:56) – Yeah. Pascal Bruckner, the French sociologist in his book Perpetual Euphoria, suggests that somewhere along the way be happy turned from like an invitation to like a demand. Yeah. Or even for for those of us in the United States the sort of the right to the pursuit of happiness. Has that turned from a right into again a demand, a burden, a responsibility, some sort of sense like yeah, if I’m not happy, I’m, I’m not doing it right. I owe the world something. That I just can’t seem to muster up for myself. And it it does feel like something perverse is happening when we find ourselves sort of caught in those spaces. Yeah.

Jonathan Fields (00:08:33) – And in addition, I mean, the research that I’ve seen because one of the questions is, you know, can everybody be equally happy? And in fact, it seems like, you know, there’s at least some research that argues that it really healthy dose of your propensity for happiness is genetic, that we all have a sort of set point that we revert to barring actually doing work and doing things that might pull us away from it.

Jonathan Fields (00:08:56) – So if you happen to be set towards more, a little bit more on the melancholy side, you’re actually okay there and you revert back to that. But the world is telling you that that’s actually not okay. Again, it’s sort of like this. The world is telling you you’re broken because you’re not feeling giddy all the time, but you’re actually kind of okay being just where you are.

Matthew Croasmun (00:09:14) – Well, it can be these gaps that we we talk about here and there in the book and come up again and again in our class, which is these gaps between sort of our definitions of success and the definitions of success of those around us or those who might have expectations for us or on us. And so you can end up in this place where you’re succeeding, as it were, according to your own terms. And the more profoundly you succeed, you sort of find your way into where you think the richness of life is found, where you feel called. Maybe the further you go in that direction, the more you look like a quote unquote failure to to someone who’s got just a whole different sort of set of criteria.

Matthew Croasmun (00:09:53) – You, boy, your life doesn’t look all that good to me at all. And and we want to part of what we’re trying to do with the book is to say, again, it’s as obvious as it might seem. Well, what is a good life? Well, I mean, it’s it’s good. How does it feel? It feels good. All of these answers can feel really sort of simple at first blush. And again, you’ve been exploring this for years. So you know just how complex this is. These these actually are contested questions. And it’s really important for each one of us to therefore take responsibility for answering these questions for ourselves, because otherwise we can get caught up in that game and just and there’s lots of confusion about, hey, why does I think I’m finding my way into really what life is all about? But to me, for our undergrads that we work with, but to my parents, this looks like failure to my advisor. This looks like failure. Or maybe to some part of me that’s still invested in some old ideal.

Matthew Croasmun (00:10:46) – It feels like failure, but we just have to be deliberate and intentional about what are our definitions of success, what is our vision of a good life so that we can attend to these gaps and just know? Well, not everyone maybe is going to see it this way. And maybe, maybe I have things that I can learn from them. Maybe there are ways that I can. Maybe, maybe they do see more rightly than I do what a good life truly is. But at some point we may just need to put a stake in the ground and say, As far as I can tell, this seems to be the substance of a good life and this is what I’m going to chase after and somebody else doesn’t recognize it. That just may be a tension I have to live with.

Jonathan Fields (00:11:28) – Yeah, it’s got to be so interesting for you to be positing these questions and inviting people into conversation in an institution where the thing that it takes people to do to actually be accepted into it and then be a participant in the community, to be a student is essentially subvert a lot of these questions in the name of that societally imposed, sometimes parent imposed, sometimes internally adopted definition of like, this is success.

Jonathan Fields (00:12:00) – I am tracking towards this thing. And so far I’ve been tracking and I’ve been performing well enough according to this societal metric that I’ve gotten into this esteemed place that the world aspires to be. And now I’m here. And then they sign up for your class. Part of my curiosity is why are they signing up for your class?

Matthew Croasmun (00:12:20) – That is a good question. You know, we start the book in a way not dissimilar to the way that we start the class, which is to say, I tell my students on the first day of class, you know, this course could wreck your life. Right? You know, you could end up finding that you have different intuitions about what really matters in life. Then you’ve been building your life around to this point. Now, of course, our sense is that that would ruin the life that you thought was worth building beforehand, but it might sort of rescue your life from another point of view, Right? Looking back on it, you might say, oh, no, this was the course that sort of saved my life, as it were.

Matthew Croasmun (00:13:00) – But I mean, you ask a really good question about why students find their way into the class. And I think for many of our students coming to Yale occasions, what is sometimes called a quarter life crisis, because just as you said, there’s been so much investment. And I myself, I was a Yale undergraduate. I remember this experience feeling like, man, when I sent in that admissions packet. And back in my day, it really was a packet. A stack of papers. I felt like they had asked me to summarize my entire life. Right as a 17 year old. Here it is. Here’s my whole life and this stack of paper. And I sent it off to some office in Connecticut and then they know. All right. Hey, that was good enough. You’re in. You’ve got so much invested in that. And then they get to campus and they look around and the big feather that they’ve got in their cap, everyone else around them also has that right. Suddenly, you know, maybe back in your the community, you came from being a Yale student.

Matthew Croasmun (00:13:55) – Wow. That was a that was a real marker. And then you get on Yale campus and it’s like, we’ll shoot like I guess like everybody here has that now what? Right? And they begin to ask the question, was that worth all of the time and energy? And honestly, in many cases sort of unhealthy that we invested ourselves in? You know, Laurie Santos, who teaches that happiness course that you referred to earlier, you know, she and I have we’ve talked about about these dynamics in certain ways. And it feels like people at our institution, at many institutions of higher education, are asking the question, why are students so unwell in various ways on our campus? And the students are making use of mental health resources at rates never seen before. And these sorts of and some of that, you know, university administrators will tell you, well, that’s that’s a good sign. You know, mental health challenges are being stigmatized. And so students are willing to seek out health or help.

Matthew Croasmun (00:14:46) – And that’s certainly true. That’s important. But there still is this question, why? Why is there so much need and so much demand? And at some level, it seems to me the answer has got to be I mean, the admissions department is sort of it’s like selecting for health, like indirectly, it’s selecting for resumes that couldn’t be put together if the top priority was getting eight hours of sleep a night and taking care of my body and taking care of my emotional well-being and all these sorts of things. And so anyway, I’ll just say a long way of saying you’ve got students who have sacrificed a whole lot, who have cashed it all in for access to this space and are kind of just asking like, is that it? Is that what this is all for? Is that what my whole life was for now? What? And that can really occasion this sort of quarter life crisis of trying to say, well, what really does matter at the end of the day, is it on this path that I’ve been going on, I just need to run faster and harder.

Matthew Croasmun (00:15:43) – But I think for most students, no, no, there’s something else. There are deeper sources of meaning than, you know, the resume virtues, to use. David Brooks language, the resume virtues that I’ve been putting together to get in to get access to a community like Yale. But what are those things? No one’s really helped many of these students think carefully about what else might be sort of worth wanting in life, or much less what it would look like to build a whole life oriented around something else or something more. Yeah.

Jonathan Fields (00:16:19) – Curious whether you have seen students show up, take your class. You know, they get shaken in the best of ways, but also in ways that sort of shatter the model of their world that got them to this particular place. And part of that model is being supported by social structures, not the least of which often is family. Have you had any conversations with with students where they start to like really wake up to something very different during the course of the explorations in their time in this class, and then really struggle with taking it to maybe their friends, even within their same circle of friends who just don’t see the world that way at all.

Jonathan Fields (00:16:58) – And then out to their their parents, you know, who have championed everything that they’ve done to get to this place. And and they’re in this awakening saying like, yeah, I’m actually really curious about doing things differently. But the social support structures that they have, which are so critical to actually happiness and are flourishing, they don’t support your desire to then say like, I want to start pursuing things differently and asking different questions.

Matthew Croasmun (00:17:24) – Yeah. One of the it’s actually a video I was going to say one of the texts that we read, but in this case it’s a video from a reconstructionist rabbi and he’s been Larp. They describe a sort of a moment, I think, something like what you’re describing as a sort of when what happens when your story crashes and they tell the story of actually the origins of rabbinic Judaism, as in certain ways, there was a there was a story of the Jewish people that centered around the temple in the year 70, when the when Rome sacks Jerusalem and the temple is destroyed, that story crashes.

Matthew Croasmun (00:17:59) – And then what comes next, of course, is this incredibly fertile moment in Jewish intellectual history. Is this birth of rabbinic Judaism this way of of neither sort of sticking to the old story come what may nor entirely abandoning this story? Right. But this sort of third option of trying to say, well, like real, real new thought and insight is required here. But the best kind of new thought and insight here is going to be funded intellectually funded by it’s going to be in some sort of deep resonance with it will rhyme with the deep resources of the tradition of the story that came before. And so we offer that last couple of years we’ve been offering that paradigm to students and I think many of them really resonate with that with that. And I had students even this very even this semester who sort of looking back at their semester, they said, I experienced a story crash. And I think, let’s be honest, I think you don’t have to take a class like life worth living. I think college can be that experience.

Matthew Croasmun (00:19:00) – I mean, frankly, outside of the university entirely, right? We experienced story crashes in our lives, but I think college in particular can be a story crash kind of moment in all kinds of ways. I hope One of the unique things that we’re doing in our class and something I hope is going on all over the university as well, is I think we’re actually trying to help students pick up the pieces and make that next move, sort of figure out, am I just going to abandon this story for a new one? Am I going to somehow try to, like, I don’t know, resist the world and try to get back to that world before the story had crashed? Or am I going to try to to construct something new here that’s drawing on sort of deep intuitions and insights that I’ve had from my tradition? If we find many students are interested in sort of that third option and and exploring that and interestingly enough, which is a family resources, I’ve had multiple students who take their final papers.

Matthew Croasmun (00:19:48) – Their final papers are their visions of a life worth living. And many students who take that paper and send it to a grandparent. Oh, no kidding. Right. And say like, hey, let’s have a conversation about this. I want I want to learn from you. I want to what do you make of this? And I had one student a couple of years ago who, in fact, it’s really interesting. She wrote her final paper. Again, this is a student rooted in the Jewish tradition. She wrote a final paper in part as a reflection on an experience she had had around the Passover Seder in her family home that very spring as she was taking the course in which she and her cousins were sitting at the Passover at the Seder table, and they were arguing with one another about some big moral questions or whatever it was. Right. And her grandmother said to her, When I see you and your cousins sitting at the table and arguing, I know my work is done. And the whole paper was this beautiful reflection on those two things, right? Both that they were at the table, you know, they hadn’t given up on the table.

Matthew Croasmun (00:20:51) – They were still back at the Passover table. They were in their community. They were in their family there in their tradition, but they weren’t passively engaged with it either. They were arguing the Passover table for her grandmother. At least it should be a site of argument that that’s how, you know, it’s working, it’s working well. And so in certain ways I would would that we all had a grandmother like that. Right. Who’s able, I think, to sort of hold both of those and offer both of. Those pieces to us to say, Hey, you can relate to your past in ways that are still. Yeah. Where you still get to have the argument, you still get to engage, you still get to ask every question you’d want to ask. But the table that you’re sitting at, this community, this tradition, this family, it’s big enough for any question that you could ask there. And I think many of the world’s cultural and religious and philosophical traditions are capacious in just that way.

Matthew Croasmun (00:21:47) – They are in centuries long or millennia long arguments about the good life. They’re not just repositories of a single vision of the good life, their ongoing arguments about the good life and what we get when we participate in those traditions isn’t just, you know, a library card to go get access to that vision of a good life as if it was a static thing. But we get an invitation to the table to actually participate and ask our hard questions and wrestle with the tradition and maybe even push it forward or in a in a different direction than it’s been taken in the past.

Jonathan Fields (00:22:22) – Yeah, I mean, that makes sense to me. I love that story, by the way, and the notion of traditions as dynamic doctrines, you know, it’s sort of like interpreting the Constitution. You’ve got your traditionalists, you know, your strict interpretation, and you also have people who are progressive and say like, no, like we actually have to evolve with the times. And my sense is it’s probably the same in almost any faith based tradition.

Jonathan Fields (00:22:42) – You know, you’re going to have people on saying there is a very strict interpretation. We don’t have any right as people that came later to actually put our thumbprint on or adapt it to the times. It is what it is. And I think, frankly, that’s why a lot of people are actually running from a lot of that approach to almost any faith tradition these days because they’re looking for something that is more dynamic and adaptable and meets the moment in a way that just feels better to them. What you’re describing is interesting to me also in that I would imagine the very class, the students within this class are all going through a similar journey with their own unique facts. But I almost wonder whether that class becomes almost like, you know, like the new temporary congregation, like the new community, where, okay, so if the people outside of that aren’t entirely aware of what’s going on and maybe they don’t support, like your shifting view of what it means to be in the world, like you’ve got a group of kids who are there together and you’re all like, We’re asking the same questions and we’re challenging the same norms and you can share that with them at a bare minimum.

Jonathan Fields (00:23:51) – You write about this in the book, right? The importance of developing new practices and also exploring them not just in isolation, but in a sense of community. Who’s traveling along with you?

Matthew Croasmun (00:24:01) – Yeah, we take our students every semester on a just a short. It’s not an overnight, just a daylong off site retreat. And the goal there is each seminar sort of meets. So it’s like 15, 16 people, including students and facilitator instructor. And we’re just sharing our stories with one another. We’re taking that moment to establish just what you’re talking about, that that community where we’re able to share our histories, share some of our hopes and our aspirations. And I think that’s something that our students regularly comment on at the end of the semester looking back, because they think this is like I’ve never had a class like this where I’m friends with everyone around the table by the end, by the end of the class. And that’s not just like, you know, warm fuzzies. I mean, who wouldn’t like some warm fuzzies? But that’s actually material to what we’re doing.

Matthew Croasmun (00:24:52) – Just as you said in the course, we need one another. We need people who won’t necessarily share our answers to the question of the good life, but they share our questions. And, you know, see Lewis in his book, I think The Four Loves, he talks about he says like, well, you know, like you’ll have some people in your life who will be your companions. They’ll they’ll share some activity or some hobby. Or maybe he puts the people that like are part of your same religious community in that category. It’s like, you know, your co-religionists, your your, you know, your golf buddy. You know, you walk your dogs together. All those people go in the same category. But he says, your friends, your friends are that’s a different thing. He says people who believe that some question much neglected by others, people who believe that that question is of central importance. He says These people will be your friends. They need not agree on the answer. I think we find every spring as we come back to the course, we just see that happen again and again and again.

Matthew Croasmun (00:25:58) – These communities built not around shared answers we know in our society and look, I’m not against communities of shared answers, be they political parties or, you know, social organizations or religious communities or whatnot. I think community built around shared answers has its place. But there is something uniquely powerful about community built. Around shared questions. And then we’re here to support one another in our truth seeking Quest Right. Trying to discover in what does the worthiness of our shared humanity consist or where is that located, or how could we invest ourselves in in that more? And there really is then a shared there’s a shared quest. And that’s actually, you know, we even say in the book, it’s good that I guess we have many ways of phrasing it because it would be very boring if we didn’t in a book. Right. But we have lots of ways of phrasing the question, right? What is a life worth living or what is a good life? Or what is the shape of flourishing life? But one of the ways to phrase each of those ways of phrasing it, I think have have their benefits.

Matthew Croasmun (00:26:58) – One way that I’ve really starting to appreciate these days is what sort of life would be worthy of our shared humanity. I think it’s in part just because of that, that shared ness, right? Of course there is something irreducibly particular and individual. We’re each going to come to our own answers, but we do have a shared objective inquiry, right? We’re trying to figure out together like it’s an extraordinary thing to be a human being. And we think it’s extraordinarily worthy thing to be a human being. We think that every human life is a life worth living. But there’s something then powerful about, as a group of people, a community, even, as you say, just convened for for a semester with our students or for folks that would want to read this, read this book together, you know, for for a book group, whatever would be a community convened just for a moment to take up this question with this shared question about can we think a little bit about the worthiness of our shared humanity? How do I lean into that? What’s really the center of that? And it has been some of the richest forms of community that that I’ve experienced.

Jonathan Fields (00:28:05) – Yeah. What’s so interesting also is both the book and the course are built around this notion that I’m guessing a lot of students would show up and say like, Sweet, Finally, I’m going to get some answers. And a lot of people buy books because they’re looking for answers. Like, I already got all these questions in my head, Please, somebody just give me the answers. And they buy book and they open the book and they’re like, okay, you’re going to have a book full of questions. Now. Like, if you started with questions, you’re going to get a whole lot more questions. And at first blush, you kind of think, Well, this is really unsatisfying. But then the deeper you get into it, you’re like, this is actually profoundly satisfying because there is a certain joy in knowing that you are in pursuit of a set of questions that will very likely morph and expand over time and take you the entirety of your life to pursue. And maybe it actually never gets fully answered, but there’s a certain joy in just pursuing the question itself that I think we just don’t think about.

Jonathan Fields (00:29:03) – We don’t center that as something that is, again, even I think, add meaning to our lives just the pursuit of meaningful questions and even like what are the meaningful questions. So that is really interesting that you’re very upfront about the fact that like this is not about giving you the answers. This is about taking you into a life of question, which is kind of counterintuitive and culture to a certain extent.

Matthew Croasmun (00:29:29) – Well, I appreciate you picking up on that in the book. I mean, it really was I mean, this is part of the reason why it took us almost ten years of teaching the course before we felt like we could write this book because the pull always felt like, well, you got to write a book of answers. And we just kept persistently feeling like that’s that’s just not that’s not what this course has been about. That’s not what this experience has been about for us as facilitators, instructors of of that course. It has been about the questions. And really, I think for us it comes from a commitment to the dignity of the reader as it is a commitment to the dignity of our students to just say, you have a responsibility here to answer these questions for yourself, that it would be inappropriate and ultimately profoundly unhelpful for us to try to take over that responsibility for you.

Matthew Croasmun (00:30:17) – You know, things that we don’t. You have intuitions about the worthiness of our shared humanity that we don’t have. We don’t have it as authors. And even as we bring to the table all of these ancient voices from various different religious and philosophical and cultural traditions, you have insights maybe, that are even that aren’t found there. And even more importantly, you have this responsibility of just because you’re you, you have to answer these questions for yourself. And so I hope what we’re doing in the book is not just piling on question after question, but also helping chapter by chapter for you to understand what are the stakes of this particular question? What are the possible kinds of answers that folks across the ages have offered? What do you get when you go that way, when you go right versus left? What do you get when you go up versus down? And then, yeah, every chapter ends with that, your turn section where you just say, Hey, yeah, this is not for us to answer.

Matthew Croasmun (00:31:12) – As it happens, us three authors, we’re all Christian theologians, so our answers are probably. Well, we diverged probably in some important places. But but our answers are going to be in particular directions. But we want to know what’s your take, Where are your intuitions? What do you think is is worth giving your life to when it comes to each one of these questions that we take up? Chapter by chapter?

Jonathan Fields (00:31:35) – Yeah, I love that you use the word responsibility also and use this in your writing as well. There was actually one line where you said it’s a responsibility to discern as best as you can what kind of life would be truly worth thinking. The responsibility to see the question and respond to it. That word responsibility is both powerful and loaded. And because you’re basically saying to somebody, This is on you, not me. And this is going to be potentially hard work for a really long time. And yet we’re sort of inviting you to think about this as something that you don’t actually get to opt out of.

Matthew Croasmun (00:32:09) – Yeah. I mean, so on the first day of class, I tell my students like, this is this responsibility to answer this question is both inalienable yours. There’s no getting out of it. You could try to give the responsibility for answering it to someone else, but even in doing that, you are exercising your responsibility, right? And handing it off to somebody else so it’s inalienable yours. And it’s also like fundamentally above your pay grade, especially at a university where in a lot of places, at least in the university, the sort of instinct is like you’re just going to develop expertise and you’re going to go take a bunch of courses and eventually you are going to become an expert at whatever it is that we’re studying. And we just have to let let our students down on day one. You are not going to become an expert in the good life. I’m not an expert. I just think that’s just not possible when it comes to this sort of realm of knowledge, which is probably better thought about as wisdom rather than knowledge.

Matthew Croasmun (00:33:05) – When it comes to wisdom, it’s not about cultivating expertise. It’s about maybe sort of trying to enter into a process aimed at sage hood of some sort. Right? But you’re that’s a very different sort of thing, right, than like, oh, I’m just going to like, you know, get this certification and that certification and, you know, check off that prereq. And then eventually, like, I’ll understand whatever quantum mechanics is probably going to end up mysterious at the end of the day anyway. This is a different sort of thing. But those two things are still both true. Even though you’re never going to become an expert, you still are going to remain responsible to have to choose. And so the course and I hope the book ah, these offers of help mostly not from us but from again these, these the from the Buddha, from Confucius, from the Muslim tradition, from philosophers across the ages. Just some help so that we can choose wisely as amateurs. We’re never going to be experts, but we can take seriously as amateurs, as people seeking to grow in wisdom, we can take seriously the inalienable responsibility.

Matthew Croasmun (00:34:14) – We do have to choose not just individual choices in our lives, but choose the vision of life that we’re trying to live into or live towards.

Jonathan Fields (00:34:25) – Yeah. As you’re describing it, I love the notion of reframing a life of being an amateur or a beginner, not as something that your job is to get past, but as something that your job is to live into. I mean, I think about moments in my life and it’s almost like the day after. I think I’ve actually figured everything out. I realize I figured nothing out. Right, right, right, right. Yeah. But just sort of like the next level of exploration and you could be destroyed by that or you could be actually elated by it and say, how cool is it that there’s so much more to explore and to discover? And but it does, I think, take a little bit of a mind shift. So you’ve kind of teed up the big question that leads into the book, that leads into the course that you explore, which you phrase in a lot of different ways What is a life worth living? What is a good life? But within that, you also start to invite people to explore these sub questions and it feels like some of the sub questions are really where you really get into.

Jonathan Fields (00:35:27) – One of those that jumped out at me was What’s worth wanting. Take me into this a bit.

Matthew Croasmun (00:35:33) – Yeah, I mean, for me, well, I should say, first of all, this this question I think I got from Andrew Delbanco, who teaches in the Great Books program at Columbia and has written a great little book about college. But it was what it is, what it still should be. I think it was a student reflecting back to him on there, an alum many years later, reflecting back to him on their time at Columbia, saying Columbia helped me figure out what not just what I wanted, but what was worth wanting. I’ve thought about our work and tried to explain it to folks over over the years. I often found people would sort of to quickly nod along and agree when we were still at the stage where we were talking past each other, but it felt like we were agreeing. So I kept trying to find like, what was the language that would help surface those disagreements because I thought they were important, right? And so in the book, we lay out these different sort of three layers of reflection, right? We talk about the sort of strategic level of reflection where we ask is what we’re doing, getting us what we want, right? And we’re just trying to tune strategies and come up with better plans to get where we’re trying to go.

Matthew Croasmun (00:36:41) – But that’s a different question from a sort of self awareness question, which is this first question the Columbia alum mentions for Delbanco, Right, which is what do I actually want in the first place? Forget like I could have a really well tuned strategy that gets me something I thought I wanted. But then, you know, sometimes you you get exactly what you thought you wanted and then you realize it’s not as it wasn’t actually what you wanted in the first place. So that’s that’s an important sort of question, right? The self-awareness question, What do I really want? Not just one of my life, like de facto oriented around, but what am I really after? But then there’s this third, deeper, different question, right? That says, even if I got what I wanted and even if what I wanted really I’d sort sorted out, that really was the thing that I was after. There’s still a possibility that that what I really wanted wasn’t actually worth having. I mean, this happens to me all the time when it comes to like, you know, foods that I choose, right? The problem with eating another bowl of ice cream isn’t that I finished the bowl of ice cream and then think to myself, Oh, that’s not really what I wanted.

Matthew Croasmun (00:37:49) – It was exactly what I wanted, but it just wasn’t worth wanting and the broader picture of my holistic health. Right. And then I think in more fundamental ways with the whole shape of our lives, that question about the worthiness of our desires, I think is one that is easily glossed over but is a really, really important question. It’s one that, again, the philosophers, the theologians, the mystics over the ages, they have returned again and again to this question. And I think really often in our modern world, we miss this level. We just ask, what do I want and how can I get it? And we skip over this question of of is what I want actually worth wanting. That has for me become a little bit of a shorthand of like of a way to try to get to this distinction of what these philosophers and mystics and theologians are really offering to us compared to often what we are pursuing in our own lives, which I said usually rarely gets much deeper, at least in my life, rarely gets much deeper than just strategy and desire.

Matthew Croasmun (00:39:04) – Right? This is more at the level of truth, right? We could be right or wrong about what’s actually worth wanting. And it’s a crazy thing, but it’s I experience it as a real thing in my life that I actually just want things that I think in the ultimate from the ultimate perspective just aren’t really worth it. And admitting that possibility of that gap I think is actually that’s a necessary step to opening ourselves up to the sort of wisdom that I think, again, the sort of great wisdom traditions are trying to offer us.

Jonathan Fields (00:39:35) – Yeah. I mean, the question resonated so deeply with me. I started just thinking about a lot of similar things in my life. And then of course, I started thinking, Well, how do I even answer this question? Like, what’s the process For me to answer this question immediately I start to turn to external sources, but then I’m answering what somebody else would be telling me should be worth wanting in my life. And that can’t be it. I mean, that’s almost the antithesis of what we’re talking about here.

Jonathan Fields (00:40:02) – Yeah, it’s got to come from the inside, which is where it gets hard. But to me, it also related to another question that you posit. It, which is how does a good life feel? Because in part, I would imagine, like that’s a part of the way that you get to the answer. But it could also take you off the rails because in the moment that ice cream is going to feel really good when you’re eating it, right? But afterwards you can be like, Oh wow, that is not the way that I want my health and my well-being to feel long term. It’s complicated.

Matthew Croasmun (00:40:33) – Right? And what if instead of ice cream that you’re obsessed with its fame or its wealth or it’s some sort of professional achievement that maybe you have a sense both that you’re. Yeah, no, I’m pretty profoundly invested in this. And yet I also have a sneaking suspicion that maybe it’s not worth all that I’m investing in. Right? Those are harder challenges. And, you know, I think your intuition that it can’t not have to do with us.

Matthew Croasmun (00:41:01) – That’s a double negative, right? It has to have something to do with us. We can’t just we were saying earlier, we can’t just pawn off this responsibility on somebody else. Oh, it’s above my pay grade. I don’t know. Let’s look it up. What is Aristotle think? All right. No, I’m done. That’s not going to work. And yet the thought that it’s only within, I think, is also potentially misleading. And I want to be careful here. Right. Because there are some sort of, for example, some sort of Buddhist traditions that might suggest. Yeah, no, the answer really is just basically within. But even there, it’s within in a part of yourself that takes a lot of discipline, let’s say a lot of practice to be able to tune into and be able to hear, to be able to quiet yourself enough, to be able to hear that part of yourself that maybe does have better intuitions than whatever the, you know, self gratification monkey part of my brain has has about what’s worth wanting.

Matthew Croasmun (00:42:01) – But again, I think the vast majority and the majority can be wrong, but the vast majority of the world’s, you know, again, mystics and theologians and philosophers, these folks are inclined to think that there is that when we when it comes to the question of worth and the question of truth down at that level of what’s worth wanting, we actually need somehow to get in touch with something that’s like from like the capital outside. Right. And you should be suspicious of me now because I already admitted to you I’m a Christian theologian, right? So you’d be like, Oh, that’s just what you mean by God. That’s true. That is what I mean by God in part. But I think it’s I think it’s broader than that. I’m not just talking about a consensus among theists. I think there are other Plato would think about the forms. Confucius would talk about ten The Will of Heaven or the Dao or something like this. There are these norms outside of us that you’re you’re still quite right that in some way we have access to, in part by looking within.

Matthew Croasmun (00:42:59) – But it’s sort of like, I don’t know, you look far enough in that all of a sudden you’re like, Well, that’s what we call that last level of what’s worth wanting. We call that the level of self transcendence, right? That you look within enough that actually you are no longer the point. And in importantly, different ways. But nevertheless, in ways we can see some sort of analogies. Many of these different traditions are going to point to point to God or to the good or to the Dao or whatever it might be, as something that does help us get leverage on these questions that can feel sort of beyond our control. And yet again, we’ll never be able to to escape the fact that the only way to get access to those things is inside our own heads and subject to our own subjectivities. And you know, what I hear God saying to me is going to at times sound pretty suspiciously like wish fulfillment or whatever it might be, right? We’re not going to get outside of those things.

Matthew Croasmun (00:43:56) – But again, I think we’ve have sort of invitations throughout human history to nevertheless incline our ear to to something outside the self to see if we can’t align ourselves to what is good and true and beautiful and most worthy in our humanity.

Jonathan Fields (00:44:14) – Yeah, it gets to another question, which is where does wisdom reside? Yeah. And I no doubt we all have. And I’m raising my hand here also. We all have an inclination to say like, what did this person say? This person saying, Where did this person write in? Like, what have I studied? And because we want to know, like, what had people figured out who’ve come before me. And yet at the end of the day, some of those same traditions, depending on what they are, we’ll also say like like this source, this being this, it actually resides within you too. So the process of trying to explore like of seeking wisdom and then towards self actualization in my mind has got to always be to a certain extent limited by the quality and depth of your self awareness at the moment of exploration.

Jonathan Fields (00:44:57) – Because if we spend as much time studying and trying to like take in what other people say, if we spend an equal amount of time actually training in our own. Development of self awareness. I wonder how much we would still be looking outside for both the questions and the answers, but we just don’t as a culture, do that. I think in other cultures Eastern traditions are much more like oriented towards that. Contemplative traditions are much more oriented that but the general population, especially like a Western mindset, we just as a general rule, we don’t go there. And I wonder whether. Agreed. I think we can learn so much from the experiences and wisdom of others. I wonder if often we discount what’s possible to bubble up from within because we’ve never actually trained in the skill of allowing it to bubble up.

Matthew Croasmun (00:45:52) – Yeah, in many ways, one of the things that we find when we look at these wisdom traditions is we find suggestions of practices and disciplines that help us quiet ourselves in order to hear ourselves or in order to understand our ourselves better, to grow in self awareness.

Matthew Croasmun (00:46:07) – And that’s we can look outside not for the answers, but maybe for habits and practices and disciplines. Tune ourselves to understand ourselves. Yeah. So I think even in our model, right sort of self transcendence is going to come sort of after or alongside that self awareness, right? We don’t skip over self awareness. It’s not unimportant. And I guess maybe it depends on which kind of self we’re talking about, Right. Right.

Jonathan Fields (00:46:35) – Less self or capital, right? Yeah.

Matthew Croasmun (00:46:38) – Sort of thin self, you know. Yeah. The sort of impulsive self. Yeah.

Jonathan Fields (00:46:42) – It’s interesting. And I love the ideas that so many of these traditions do in fact have all these practices as part of the things which say like, you know, like it’s not just about us saying like, here are the rules, but here are set of practices. And the more you do these, the more you actually and it’s not just about self. I feel like a lot of the practices are less about self awareness. It’s about stillness with the assumption that the stiller you can become, the more indications of like what’s truly going on will start to to arise, you know, like mindfulness, meditation, insight based meditation and like you mentioned, the Buddha, which is, you know, Buddhism is largely steeped in mind stilling practices and not so much answers, but it’s sort of like the big problem is assumed that you just can’t see clearly enough and that if you could, the questions and the answers would just start to present themselves more readily.

Jonathan Fields (00:47:34) – So the bigger issue is that we’re just we live in a state of semi delusion. Yeah. And like, how can we strip those veils away?

Matthew Croasmun (00:47:41) – Yeah, I think that’s quite right. I do think that’s probably a place where there is some disagreement among these different wisdom traditions. Right? So Al-Ghazali is a muslim sage, roughly contemporary, I think of Aquinas, 13th, 14th century, something like that. I may have those. I may be off by a century or two. But he talks about transformation as a way of he says, you ought to relate to your soul like a new business partner. That is to say, you’re hoping that you can do good business with this character, but you got to be careful or else you know that person on the other side of the table is going to rip you off. But the person on the other side of the table he’s talking about is you. Right? So so I think there are you know, I think to be honest about the different wisdom traditions, I think there actually is some disagreement on just this point of how trustworthy is the self, how many of life’s questions or even as you phrased it a few minutes ago, where does wisdom reside? And I think for Ghazali, it’s really important.

Matthew Croasmun (00:48:42) – Wisdom resides with God, period. And am I created by God? Yes. My created good by God, Yes. In that sense, Muslim as well as other kinds of mystical Abrahamic, Jewish Christian sorts of traditions, ways of thinking about the divine within and these sorts of things. But for someone like Ghazali and for many other folks in Abrahamic traditions, there’s going to be a sense that no wisdom importantly resides in the capital outside, and we quiet the self in part so that in that moment of stillness we might be able to hear the voice of God. And again, there’s going to be a lot shared there in terms of practices and instincts of quieting and of meditation. But I think there’s it’s also important that we recognize there’s there’s real disagreement there, too, about when we get quiet, who do we when we clear the stage of our minds, who or what are we waiting to appear on that stage? And I think, yeah, for the Abrahamic traditions, for many in those traditions, it’s important that we’re clearing the stage for God to speak.

Matthew Croasmun (00:49:49) – And I think that’s a different sort of expectation. And again, as we said early on, we will not agree on all of these questions. But I think I think just there maybe maybe it’s worth worth noting. I think there are some disagreement among these different traditions there.

Jonathan Fields (00:50:01) – Yeah. No, I mean, it is really interesting. And even as you’re describing that, it’s sort of like how you feel. That what you were just offering like of like where you lie in that. And that debate also relates back to the idea of responsibility. Like, so then is the responsibility just to do the practices that that create the stillness to allow the voice to emerge from the outside? Or is the responsibility to do the work to actually try and like embrace the questions and figure it out yourself from the inside? And it sounds like this again, is going to be like some people will say this and some people are going to be divergence.

Matthew Croasmun (00:50:37) – Absolutely. Yeah. No, there are times I think it’s I think it’s Luther who talks about the revelation of God is like a summer thunderstorm.

Matthew Croasmun (00:50:45) – You never know when it’s going to show up. The best you can do is like dig some channels, some irrigation channels, I think is what he’s imagining, right. To sort of catch the catch the water when it falls. Right. So that would be like on that first side of that divide that you were suggesting. Even as a Christian, I hear that and I think, oh, I don’t know, that might be letting me off the hook too easily. Right? My responsibilities may be more than to simply dig the ditches so that when God does God’s thing, I’m in some sense prepared for it. We may have a little bit more agency and responsibility than that. But yeah, I think once we’re in the moments of asking these questions, just as you and I are in this conversation, I think we found ourselves into a really good and really rich place to take up these questions.

Jonathan Fields (00:51:28) – And I think that’s a fun place to be. And it also relates to something that you you circle around you later in the book, which is the notion of suffering, which like nobody gets opt out of that, you know, stuff is going to happen to us and we may make things happen to us and also to those around us that causes our own suffering and their suffering.

Jonathan Fields (00:51:47) – And if we love them unconditionally like their victims, we may suffer vicariously through them. And relating back to what you were just saying also about like sometimes wanting certain things to be a certain way because it kind of lets you off the hook. There’s this line that you wrote that says basically, just because a way of thinking about suffering makes us feel better doesn’t make it true. And just because a practice for weathering suffering helps get us through it doesn’t make it good. And I thought that was a really interesting point.

Matthew Croasmun (00:52:16) – Yeah. Well, and and I think that that goes for the question of suffering and that’s such an important one. And it cuts so close to home and close to the heart for each one of us, whether we’re in the midst of a season of suffering, someone close to us is profoundly suffering. There’s all the suffering that we see on the television screen that we see in media various forms during our days. That question is huge. But if we want to have our answers to that question as to any other question to be indexed to truth, then we’re going to have to hold open the possibilities that just because it makes us feel good doesn’t mean it’s right.

Matthew Croasmun (00:52:52) – Just because it is a useful strategy doesn’t mean that it’s right. Right. We’re really allowing this. This happens when we do the sciences, I take it, right? Like you can have a like an explanation of like, why the apple falls from the tree that makes you feel really good or that you find really useful for for whatever you’re doing. But if that explanation doesn’t also explain why the moon is up in the sky, I think your explanation is not as good as Newton’s right? So if we’re accountable to the truth, then that really has to be our ultimate criterion for deciding these questions that can put us as sort of an uncomfortable places, because we can. There’s so much in our culture that suggests to us that visions of the good life or answers to life’s fundamental questions are like orders in a restaurant or something like that. You know, the it’s funny. I mean, it used to happen like just in dialogues with servers in restaurants, right? Whatever you chose. Oh, excellent choice.

Matthew Croasmun (00:53:47) – It’s even more transparent now with so many like web apps or like you’re ordering on your phone or whatever. You’re using the touch screen somewhere or whatever. It always praises. Oh, excellent. Excellent choice. It’s like, I don’t know, man. I just ordered like a large fry in a milkshake at like, you know, at like a two in the afternoon. I’m not sure that is a strong choice. But anyway, so there is the I think it it can be disorienting for us to think, oh, shoot, maybe there is more more to wrestling with these questions than simply getting an answer that that makes me feel good or that I can live with or gives me a good coping strategy. I mean, that’s not to talk down on on a good coping strategy. Sometimes that’s what we what we need in life. But it may not be the same thing as really getting in touch with the with the truth, with the facts of the matter. At the end of the day.

Jonathan Fields (00:54:32) – Yeah, I think of that in the context of trauma.

Jonathan Fields (00:54:34) – A couple of years ago we said now with Bessel Van, who’s done just some incredible work in this space. And you know, and I’ve talked to a number of people about trauma over the years, and like pretty universally, they’ll say we effectively become stuck in time at the time that that we were traumatized. And we don’t really ever move forward from that. We think we move forward because we cope, we compartmentalize. We figure out all the workarounds to be able to open our eyes in the morning and move through the day and feel like we’re reasonably okay. But a certain part of us remains forever stuck in that moment. Unless. And until we do something to integrate it, which is kind of what we’re talking about here, like we do the things that make us feel good in the moment and let us get it through the day. And look, it’s not a knock on doing that, right? Right. We need to do that to a certain extent. But it doesn’t necessarily mean that wherever freeing ourselves from being able to move on from that original thing.

Matthew Croasmun (00:55:29) – Quite often, right. That part of us that is stuck, right. It’s our bodies, right? I think of like monogamous work, right? Or this sort of the body keeps the score kind of thinking, right? It’s like, yeah, you can have whatever coping mechanism you want, but at some point your body remembers the trauma. And so there is this trauma is a great example of the sort of sturdiness of the real world that whatever kind of sense making work that we’re doing and we need to do sense making work and we need to have coping strategies and we need to have all of these things. That’s quite right so far as they go. But there’s something but the world is pretty sturdy. And the truth is pretty sturdy. And the facts of the matter are what they are. In all we’re trying to really advocate for in this book is that that doesn’t change when it comes to these questions about a good life. The questions that seem to us may be more about more about morals or ethics or there still may be a fact of the matter.

Matthew Croasmun (00:56:27) – At the end of the day, there may still be sturdy, sturdy realities of the world that we have to wrestle with, and that can be uncomfortable. But lots of truths, as they say, can be inconvenient at times, but they are no less true for being so.

Jonathan Fields (00:56:42) – Yeah. One of the things you also kind of circle around to towards the end of the conversation in the book is this exploration of trying to figure out what actually matters and this idea that what matters most may not actually be the thing that you’re attuned to, which is a little bit frustrating because I think a lot of us would like to think that we can pick out what actually matters most and then say yes to it and take the actions and develop the practices and allocate resources behind it. That’s the one thing we can figure out is what actually matters here. But that’s not entirely true all the time. No.

Matthew Croasmun (00:57:17) – And in parts, because we are awash in a world of influences and voices that are constantly giving us, I think, misinformation about what matters most.

Matthew Croasmun (00:57:26) – We’re mean, especially I mean, this this happens to us constantly with our students in an environment like Yale, within the sort of elite world that Yale offers access to. You’re just awash in folks that are constantly telling you that if you you make a bunch of money or you have a bunch of influence or you get a bunch of fame or people, you know, get a sort of reputation of a certain sort, that’s exactly what matters most. And for a lot of us, at least in the final accounting, when we’re able to quiet ourselves, as we’ve been talking about, and take a step back and listen to some of the wisdom traditions or even that sort of voice from the outside, those things don’t seem like they’re really what matters most. What matters most maybe, is something more like, again, don’t want to bias it. I’m not here to give you the answers. Right? But it seems like often it ends up in a constellation of things that look more like relationships, more like deep senses of belonging and investment and projects and communities that we’re that we really care about.

Matthew Croasmun (00:58:28) – It has to do with with futures that we will never see, but that we can build towards and hope for. It looks like, you know, for me as a teacher, it looks like the lives of my students where I am entirely off screen. That’s not going to redound to my reputation. Right. But it’s maybe what matters much more what one of my students does. You know, in 30 years, in the quiet moment of their life, to to choose for or against what really matters most, that’s what maybe matters most for my life. Right? But that’s not going to clamor for my attention. It’s not I’m not going to be given pats on the back. I’m not going to get likes on my social media or whatever. Right? So we’re just we’re awash in these influences that are consistently inviting us to tune our entire lives around things that in the final accounting may actually be trivial, but they don’t feel trivial because of all these all these folks around us who are constantly cheering us on or or on the on the flip side, you know, telling us we’re worthless because we don’t have those things or whatever it might be.

Matthew Croasmun (00:59:38) – We’re just in these perverse cultures of value, right? Where we’re in cultures that I think have gotten value wrong, aren’t able to recognize what’s what matters most and what is trivial. We’ve got, in some cases, those things exactly backwards. And so it takes a lot of discipline to routinely. And that’s where we end. The book is, is to say to folks, it’s not over. It’s going to. You may have taken a lot of exertion to start to formulate some of our intuitions or maybe even start to write them down. But say those insights, they’re like buried treasure in a desert. You may have uncovered it, but the sands, the winds are going to blow those sands back over it, and it’ll be lost before you know it, unless you routinely come back and come back to these questions yourself. Build a community, build sets of practices that are going to help you sort of build that resistance against, you know, the flow of the river, as it were, That, again, at least in my estimation, I think many of the rivers I find myself in the midst of flow, in the direction of triviality, in the name of great importance.

Matthew Croasmun (01:00:47) – Right. And it takes a lot of a lot of discipline to to resist that current.

Jonathan Fields (01:00:53) – That feels like a good place for us to start to come full circle as well. So in this container of Good Life project, if I offer up the phrase to live a good life, what comes up.

Matthew Croasmun (01:01:03) – For me to live a good life is to live a life of love for me means having that life built on a foundation of knowing myself as loved, hopefully by family and relationships that are really close to me. For me as a theist, that also means like loved by God, loved in some way. That’s not something I earned or something that I have to worry about, but it’s a really foundation for my life and then a life of love in the sense of being able to offer myself for the good of others, to see others flourish, to be involved in communities of mutual belonging, where we are committed to, to modes of mutual flourishing. Robin Wall Kimmerer says all flourishing is mutual. And I think there’s a deep, deep insight there.

Matthew Croasmun (01:01:52) – And so for me, a good life is a life of love in what King called the beloved community, a community that is loved, that loves within the community and loves. And hopefully those are ever growing boundaries of love that eventually encompass the whole human community and indeed the entirety of the creation.

Jonathan Fields (01:02:17) – Thank you. Hey, before you leave, if you love this episode, safe bet you’ll also love the conversation we had with Matthew Ricard about the true source of contentment and happiness in life. You’ll find a link to his episode in the show notes. And of course, if you haven’t already done so, please go ahead and follow Good Life Project in your favorite listening app. And if you found this conversation interesting or inspiring or valuable and chances are you did. Since you’re still listening here, would you do me a personal favor, a seven second favor, and share it maybe on social or by text or by email? Even just with one person. Just copy the link from the app you’re using and tell those you know those you love, those you want to help navigate this thing called life a little better so we can all do it better together with more ease and more joy.

Jonathan Fields (01:03:04) – Tell them to listen, then even invite them to talk about what you’ve both discovered. Because when podcasts become conversations and conversations become action. That’s how we all come alive together. Until next time, I’m Jonathan Fields, signing off for Good Life Project.

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