President's Column

Listening to Your Life

William F. Evans
William F. Evans, Ph.D.

As another anniversary of 9-11 arrived, I found myself contemplating how fragile the world seems sometimes. It is difficult to understand the meaning of life in times of tragedy and suffering. One of my favorite quotes is by Frederick Buechner from his autobiographical book, Now and Then:

“Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery that it is. In the boredom and pain of it no less than in the excitement and gladness: Touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it, because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace.” (Buechner, 1991, p. 87)

There is so much in that quote to unravel and understand. First, did you notice that he expressed all five senses? “Listen… see… touch, taste, smell…” in other words, embrace life fully, with all that is in you! Notice also how he said that all moments are important, not only the exciting and glad ones, but also the boring and painful ones. Often, you and I may feel that life is somehow cheating us if we aren’t getting exactly what we want. Well, who wants boredom and pain? No healthy person seeks such suffering! Nevertheless, many of us would have to admit that some of life’s greatest lessons came through times of suffering and sadness. In such times, we are confronted with a choice to become better or bitter. We can allow the pain to be our teacher, and we can become stronger, wiser, and more compassionate human beings – “strong at the broken places,” as Hemingway wrote. (Hemingway, 1995, p. 249)

Are you listening carefully to your life? Are you seeking meaning in all your moments, “in the boredom and pain… no less than the excitement and gladness?” Are you allowing even your most difficult experiences to teach you how to be a stronger, wiser, more compassionate human being? I hope so, and I also hope the resources of INPM are helpful as you seek to discover the meaning of your life. In this fragile, unpredictable world, we are still challenged to seek personal meaning, a sturdy foundation upon which to live, whether we find ourselves in the midst of a violent storm, or relaxing on a beach enjoying a gentle sea breeze softly kissing our face. I wish you well as you continue your journey to discover “the holy and hidden heart of it.”


Buechner, F. (1991). Now and then: A memoir of vocation. New York, NY: Harper Collins Publishers.

Hemingway, E. (1995). A farewell to arms. New York, NY: Scribner Publishing Company.