After reeling from a string of terrorist attacks in London, the UK is ready for the bold vision of turning tragedy into triumph and frustration into strength through the power of meaning.
Now, I am at my desk, just after speaking at the first International Meaning Conference (IMEC) at the University of Roehampton, still feeling the excitement of having been at the mountaintop and caught a glimpse of the glorious vision of a human family caring for each other.
Having been a lone voice in the desert for almost 20 years, I was deeply moved to see so many people at the IMEC from all over the globe. Many of them were eager to shake my hand and say, “I’m so glad to meet you. I’ve read your writing for a long time.”
The Flame Has Spread to the UK
In the first INPM International Meaning Conference in Vancouver in 2000, I issued a trumpet call of positive revolution—a call for all people to strive towards self-transcendence rather than self-enhancement as the end value.
Since them, several well-intentioned people have volunteered to start a Meaning Conference in their countries to spread the message of existential positive psychology, but none have materialized.
It took a fearless young Brit with fiery mohawk hair to make it happen. Joel Vos came to our INPM Meaning Conference in Toronto last year. He was so impressed that he wanted to duplicate the experience in the UK the following year.
Joel wasted no time to get the support from the INPM Board and the Centre for Research in Social and Psychological Transformation (CREST) of the University of Roehampton. No sooner had he received the necessary support, he began to put together a conference planning team. In a matter of a few months, the IMEC became a reality. The conference theme of “Joining Forces Between Research and Applications” nicely capture the essence of the “Big Tent” philosophy of the INPM. To his credit, Joel put in a lot of energy emphasizing the need for participants to get connected with each other. It was remarkable that there was the absence of barriers between researchers and practitioners, between existential and positive psychologies, and between people with different ethnic and cultural background at the conference. It was such an intimate and warm gathering.
Figure 2: Relaxing at the King’s Head Pub at the end of the conference.
A Unique Conference Experience
Like all the INPM Meaning Conferences, the IMEC represents the same kind of conference experience of rubbing shoulders with people you seldom meet in traditional conferences for “birds of the same feather.” More importantly, there were many magical moments of creative sparks when existentialism and positive psychology were integrated seamlessly.
Another unique experience was the emphasis on self-transcendence rather than self-enhancement. Two themes were apparent throughout the conference—relationships and self-transcendence, the two pillars of meaning and well-being. All lives will be better when people learn to get along with each other and care for each other. Happiness is not about me, but about us as members of the same human family or cells of the same body; when one part hurts, all other parts are affected.
Finally, the conference stressed the actual experiencing of meaning. Unlike other conferences that only emphasize knowledge and skills, this meaning conference placed a special premium on how to experience meaning in daily living, despite all the stress, chaos, and uncertainty.
I really hope that other countries will follow the example of the UK by starting their own IMEC. I personally and INPM as a whole will fully support your efforts to spread the flame of meaningful living for a better tomorrow.