Lives of Meaning

“Do not depend on the hope of results. When you are doing the sort of work you have taken on, essentially an apostolic work, you may have to face the fact that your work will be apparently worthless and even achieve no result at all, if not perhaps results opposite to what you expect. As you get used to this idea, you start more and more to concentrate not on the results but on the value, the rightness, the truth of the work itself.” – Thomas Merton

 Lives of Meaning heeds the call of Socrates, to examine the life we are living in order to live it well.  Lives of Meaning reminds us of the appeal of Dorothy Day, to not forget to nourish both the body and the soul with food that is consumed and food that is pondered.  Lives of Meaning is for Deerfield Academy students and community members who assess their lives 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.

Community members can engage in the curriculum of Lives of Meaning by

  • listening to voices that are underrepresented or opinions that are unknown
  • participating in contemplative practices that are grounded in a variety of traditions and that nurture the ability to self-reflect
  • reading classical texts that explore the human search for meaning
  • seeking opportunities to be servant leaders for social justice
  • sharing in difficult yet important conversations in an affirming, respectful and safe setting
  • visiting spiritual communities that are unfamiliar

Lives of Meaning wholeheartedly embraces many of the events and initiatives already happening in the Deerfield Academy community, adds some of our own, and then invites community members to heed the call of Teresa of Avila to be attentive, and “turn the eyes of our soul to the Lord.”  Explicitly pluralistic in our approach, 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, and somehow seeking to be known.  By way of metaphor, we are on a journey: Deerfield Academy is our vehicle, and we are at the controls.

For more information about the Lives of Meaning curriculum, and the schedule of events available to those in the Deerfield Academy community interested in the worth of considering and pursuing a life of meaning, please contact Jan Flaska, Dean of Spiritual and Ethical Life, at 413.774.1486 or

Dates of Lives of Meaning gatherings (with a reminder that there are MANY other meaningful events that occur in the Deerfield Academy community):

Fall Term

September 22 Indigenous American Insight
October 3 Love as Prayer
October 6 Zen Meditation
October 27 Open Dialogue
October 28 The Spiritual Presence in Old Deerfield
November 3 Interfaith Dinner
November 10 Chamber Music & Orchestra Concerts

Winter Term

December 1 Islam’s Response to Islamic Terrorists
December 8 Zen Meditation
December 11 Community Lessons and Carols
January 5 Sufi Zhikr and Imagery
January 19 MLK and the Religious Roots of Nonviolence
February 9 Science, Religion and the Full Moon
February 14 Valentine’s Concert
February 16 Conversation about Fasting as Prayer and Protest
Feb 18/Mar 1 Chamber Music Concert
March 2 Jewish Wisdom

Spring Term

April 6 Zen Meditation
April 13 Songkran at the Thai Buddhist Temple in Boston
April 20 The Resurrection in Cinema
April 27 Open Dialogue
May 4/5 Spring Dance Concert
May 18 Spiritual Preparation for Ramadan
May 24 Unpacking the Suitcase: Where Have We Been?


Potential Passport Stamps to Acquire

  • Join the Spiritual Life table at our sit-down meals
  • Participate in some of the events listed above
  • Attend non-required speakers from outside of our community
  • Undertake servant leadership events and/or projects
  • Visit spiritual communities that are unfamiliar
  • Read a spiritual or philosophical classic


Lives of Meaning is an initiative at Deerfield Academy managed by the student-led Spiritual Council at Deerfield Academy, and supported by Jan Flaska, the Dean of Spiritual and Ethical Life.  The Spiritual Council at Deerfield Academy is currently comprised of students representing the following traditions: Theravada Buddhism; Catholic Christianity; Protestant Christianity; Hinduism; Sunni Islam; and Reformed Judaism.  A recent interview of some of the members of the Spiritual Council can be found here.


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