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Your Life on Earth: Philosophizing Purpose and Place in the #21C

“Tiger got to hunt, bird got to fly;/ Man got to sit and wonder 'why, why, why?'/Tiger got to sleep, bird got to
land;/Man got to tell himself he understand.” -Kurt Vonnegut, Cat’s Cradle

ESSENTIAL QUESTIONS:
● What is the purpose of (your/human) existence?
● What does it mean to live a meaningful life? AND What gives your life meaning?
● How do you characterize your relationship with Earth/place/resources?
● How does your “intertextual” experience impact your personal philosophy?
● META-Question: How are these questions shaping up in the #21C?

The “Existential Crisis”


It is quite normal at your age (and mine) to question the purpose of your existence and the meaning of human
life on Earth. Sometimes, these “existential questions” can cause deep angst in the human mind, an
interesting phenomenon often referred to as an “existential crisis.” I prefer to spin the experience not as a
crisis, but rather as an existential opportunity. The purpose of this project is to explore meaning and
existence through the Humanities lenses of philosophy and literary studies in the hopes of arriving at some
personal answers about our lives here on planet Earth. Although we may not arrive at certain answers,
asking the questions in the first place just might be part of what it means to be human.

The Content: Topics to Explore


● Happiness and Meaning
● Existentialism (and the “existential crisis”)
● Aristotle’s Eudaimonia
● Transcendentalism
● Religion/Spirituality vs. Scientific Worldview
● Humanism
● Success and ambition
● Alone v. Lonely: The role of social media in our lives
● Gratitude
● Interconnectedness and Community
● Sense of Place
● Environmental Ethics
Texts
● Books: Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer
(Plus Honors: The Stranger by Albert Camus, A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki, and Cat’s
Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut)
● Films: Harold and Maude, Into the Wild, and other short films
● Other texts: Stories, TED talks, Non-fiction readings, Poetry, Videos, and MORE!
● And of course, the texts we create as we go…

Major Assignments:
Digital Comp Book of daily starters and journal entries
Socratic Seminar: Harold and Maude
Literature Circle: Into the Wild
Final Personal Philosophy Project and Reflection

The Project: A 21st Century Expression of Personal Philosophy


● Self-designed and personalized
● Words and images that together form a cohesive message
● Inspired by intertextual influences from our project AND your own life
● 300-10,000 words
● Answers one or more of the essential questions
● Audience: All-school exhibition coffeehouse format PLUS Digital sharing? (This we will
develop together, my dear digital natives!)
● Possible Genres (or invent your own)
○ Personal essay, narrative story, or other prose genre? (letter to self or another? )
○ Illuminated “Sense of Place” Essay
○ Short film (a la Sellers)
○ Multimedia narrative (think Chopsticks)
○ Multimedia verse (with poet’s statement for illumination and word count)
○ Song or Performed Poetry
○ Fine art with personal statement shared on social media cleverly
○ Digital Art (photo essay, animation, photoshop, illustrator)
○ Children’s Book
○ Collage (how do you make it #21C?)
○ Kinetic Text (with voiceover?)
○ NOTE: If your project emphasizes the visual, you may satisfy the textual
requirement with an artist’s statement written in prose or verse

Personal Philosophy Project Due Dates (subject to change)


February 14: Philosophy Statement and Project Proposal
February 21: Draft of project due to me
February 25: Final Project, completed
February 25-27: Project Presentation and Critique (EXHIBITION at All-School on May 16)
February 28: Reflection / Celebration