At Basecamp Learning Centre, we help students find meaning through the three activities of Communication, Understanding, and Service.
Let’s look at communication first. We are, by nature, isolated creatures and it appears that some of our most meaningful moments are to do with instances of connection: with a lover, for example, when we reveal our intimate physical and psychological selves, or when we form friendships where substantial truths about our respective lives can be shared. Or on a journey to a new country, when we strike up a conversation with a stranger and feel a thrilling sense of victory over linguistic and cultural barriers. Or when we are touched by books, songs, and films that put their fingers on emotions that are deeply our own but that we had never witnessed externalized so clearly or beautifully before.
Then there’s the meaning that emerges via understanding. This is about the pleasure that can be felt whenever we correct confusion and puzzlement about ourselves or the world. We might be scientific researchers, or economists, poets or patients in psychotherapy; the pleasure of our activities stems from a common ability to map and make sense of what was once painfully unfamiliar and strange.
Thirdly, there’s service. One of the most meaningful things we can do is to serve other people, to try to improve their lives, either by alleviating sources of suffering or else by generating new sources of pleasure. So we might be working as cardiac surgeons and aware every day of the meaning of our jobs or else be in a company that’s making a modest but real difference to people’s lives by helping them get a better night’s sleep, finding their keys or thrilling them aesthetically with elegant furniture or harmonious tunes. Or else our service might be to friends or our own families, or perhaps the earth itself. We’re often told to think of ourselves as inherently selfish. But some of the most meaningful moments come when we transcend our egos and put ourselves at the service of others – or the planet. One should add that in order for service to feel meaningful, it has to be in synch with our native, sincere interests. Not everyone will find medicine or social work, ballet or graphic design meaningful. It’s a case of knowing enough about ourselves to find our particular path to service.