The Meaning of Being
Or Why Am I Here?

I am 75 and still teaching a couple classes each semester. I love teaching for many reasons including moving from an average school system where I was above average to Mt. Lebanon, which was the 19th best system in the country. That move caused me to feel inferior academically. I don’t want other students making the same mistake that I made. The summer session, which I just completed, condenses a 17-week semester into 8-weeks. It was a remarkable summer session. In fact, it was one of the best classes that I have taught in over two decades of teaching.

The final exam for the two classes was intentionally a very open-ended topic regarding the meaning of their being. It was a survey course of the major present-day world religions. More than a third of the religions, which we studied, were new to most of the students. At the end of the summer session, they took a final, and this is my email to them regarding it.

Dear Class,

Several items:

I told you that I want my dean to call me into her office to explain why 88% of you aced this class. I have never had a better semester in over two decades of teaching.

As for the final, I was impressed by your essays. I graded your final based on your thinking. Some of you fell back upon what was told to you by your religious background. My response is how did you obtain that background? The answer is that you were born into that faith. No one in this class was born into the Sunni faith and at thirteen joined the Shinto religion. No one in this class was born into Christianity and at thirteen joined the Jains. Therefore, the means by which we all became what we are was tied to birth. Truth is related to chance…the chance of being born into the right religion whatever that religion is. All religions see themselves as the correct religion.

As for the need of a creator deity, a handful of religions don’t have a deity. Therefore, why is a creator necessary? Some will say that we need some deity to create all that is in the vast universe. If you think a deity is necessary to create the universe, who created the deity? Some will say that some deity, which happens to be that person’s personal god, just existed. That may be, but it is arguably true that the universe just existed if some deity just existed.

Now, I’m 75 and probably will find out one way or the other a lot sooner than this class.

I’m writing this to the class at 3 pm. This is my response to the reason for my being. It has to do with what I did today?

  • I was scheduled to see my attorney to incorporate We Are Family and then begin getting it registered as a not-for-profit corporation. This will allow contributors to deduct their donations to We Are Family from federal and state taxes.
  • However, I got up and took Ginger for a walk around the lake. By the time we got home, she was sick. Off we went to the vet. Then I went to my attorney’s office after dealing with Ginger.
  • When I got home, I sent some general gifts to my family in Taunggyi, Myanmar. However, I sent another birthday present to one of my granddaughters. My first gift was lost en route between my home and theirs.
  • This morning, this essay appeared on my website:

I don’t buy that all these events were predestined by some deity 13.78 billion years ago. What I do believe is that I am in control of what I deem to be important…and I will act on those items. These things are my reason for being.

Finally, you must discover, if you haven’t already, your reason for being. I can’t, nor do I want to suggest to you what your reason for being is. Ponder what it is or should be. My only suggestion is to base it upon what will drive you, not what someone else told you. You are a person…you decide.

My two trips to Myanmar during winter break in the last four years radically changed me. Go to, look to the column on the right entitled, Critical Issues, and read the introduction to On Seeing the Light and We Are Family.

My two trips to Myanmar during winter break in the last four years radically changed me. Go to, look to the column on the right entitled, Critical Issues, and read the introduction to On Seeing the Light and We Are Family.

If your reason for being drives you…really drives you, you have chosen wisely. If not, rethink your reason for being. Your clock is ticking. Don’t waste the precious time that you have.

In the meantime, take care,

This response to the class is a good example of my teaching style, but, more importantly, it is an excellent illustration of where I am in my life. I get that I have a limited amount of time, and I don’t want to waste it. I had to endure two near death experiences: a traumatic brain injury and prostatic cancer that got outside the prostate. Nonetheless, I wouldn’t delete either from my life. I view both medical issues as the two most positive teaching moments in my entire life. I am fortunate that I overcame both dances with death, which allowed me to process all the reasons for my being.

Now, the haunting question that I pose for you is what is your reason for being? What drives you? What makes you get up in the morning and face the new day? I told my classes that it isn’t any of my business what they decide to do, and that applies to you. You need to think and ponder why you are here. Just remember, don’t waste time putting your pondering off.

I have an advantage over most of my readers. I’ve done the dance with death and know a critically important truth about life that you don’t. I know my clock is ticking. Now, most of you will respond by assuring me that you are well-aware that you are not immortal. My retort is that you think you hear the clock ticking, but you haven’t.

Tick tock

If you really knew your clock is ticking, what are you doing in life that is critically important? What drives you? What gets you excited about living? What is your purpose of being?

All of us know that dogs and cats die along with all of us. However, that insight is sanitized; that truth about life hasn’t hit most people, and, therefore, most people haven’t changed. To be honest with you, prior to my two dances a decade ago, I thought that I knew that I was finite. Like most people, I did understand that truth at an extremely insignificant level. Having done the dances and having had Randy Pausch explain that reality to me, I’m a different cat today than I was for most of my life.

Discover your reason for being….

We Are Family

"My hauntings"

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Dancing with death

" Dancing with death"

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The last lecture

The last lecture

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Connecting The Dots

Darkest Before Dawn

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