Love and meaning of life – updated

I published this post 2017 October 11, after looking at two speeches:
1. a speach of a Tibetan nunn, Tenzin Palmo Jetsunma about love and attachment and  2.  a speech of Emily Esfahani Smith about happiness and pillars of the meaning of life.

I have now made a major update of this post adding more content about love, imposssible relationsships, the pillars of meaning of life and telling about my personal coinclusions.



Tenzin talks in her video about attachment. I have been looking around for a synonym.

According to Tenzin, Attachment is like:

” I love you therefore I want you to make me happy”. 

and she adds that
“attachment is like holding very tight. “

It looks like she is talking about dependency like in :


Tenzin says that genuine love is when :

“I love you, therefore I want you to be happy.

Genuine love is holding very gently, nurturing, but allowing things to flow,

Can genuine love survive “enhancement separation”?

Susan Pease Gadoua  says: 

 I am a big believer in the therapeutic value of a separation to strengthen the marriage if it’s done in the right way for the right reasons, and if there are clear agreements from the start. ( Source: )

When I think about love and separation, I can not forget the story of the Swedish Sailorwoman  ( sjömanshustrun ), a story told for me but probably invented, that the statue was raised in memory of a woman who every day went to the harbour to look if her husband was coming back. The husband did not like many others, fishermen and sailors on tradinG ships during the last war.Bildresultat för sjömanshustrun( Image source :  )

some love stories survive separation, some do not.
The story of Manika who had a maternal death and while dying made an agreement  with her husband,, is a curious story of a remarcable separation that did not survive. Her husband married another woman. I wrote about it in



“The problem is always that we mistake the idea of love for attachment.

We  imagine that the grasping and clinging that we have in our relationsships, shows that we love whereas actually it is  just attachment which causes pain.

Because, you know the more we grasp the more we are afraid to loose, then if we do  loose, we are going to suffer.

Make happy

I mean, genuine love is… well attachment says ” I love you therefore I want you to make me happy”.  And genuine love says “I love you, therefore I want you to be happy. If that includes me, great.  if it doesn’t include me, I just want your happiness. And so, its a very different feeling.


You know, attachment is like holding very tight. Genuine love is holding very gently, nurturing, but allowing things to flow, not to be held tightly. The more tight we hold on to others, the more we will suffer. But its very hard for people to understand that, because they think that the more they hold on to someone, the more it shows they care about them but it’s not, it’s really just that they are trying to grasp at something because they are afraid  that otherwise they themselves will be hurt.


Any kind of relationship which imagines that we can fulfill ourselves trhough another is bound to be very tricky.  I mean, ideally, people should come together already feeling fulfilled within themselves and just therefore appreciating that in the other rather than expecting the other to supply that sense of well-being. which they dont feel on their own.


Then it’s  a lot of problem and also along with the projection which comes with romance where we project all our ideals and desires and romantic fantasies on to the other which the other cannot possibly fulfill once you get to know them and recognize that it’s not Prince Charming of Cinderella, it’s just a very ordinary person, also struggleing.

And unless one is able to see them to like them as well as well as feel desire for them and to also have loving kindness and  compassion then it’s going to be, it’s going to be a very difficult relationship.”

Impossible relationships

Tenzins definition regards all kind of relations. It doesn’t make difference between heterosexual or homosexual relationship.

In my examples below, I identify therefore the members in a pair with numbers, one (1) and two (2).

a relation is impossible or difficult if

  1. you look for fulfillment through another
    this may happen if 1 needs its companion (2) to achieve fulfillment. Tenzin said that this make the relarionship tricky.
    Such a relationship may I think, become a unhealthy dependency relationship if if “you can’t be happy without your partner.
  2. you have different goals for your relationship
    This happens e.g. when you have e.g. these two goals:

    • “I want you to make me happy!”
    • “I do not need that you make me happy as I get happy  fulfilling myself in my work and hobbies”
  3. when happiness for one is incompatible with the happiness of the  partner e.g. the happiness for one is a pain for the other as in these two examples:1. :  I must listen to rap music many hours a day to improve myself as a musician.”
    2.:  “I hate rap music, I love opera!”or1 : “I love trecking in the mountains!”
    2 :  “I can not do trecking in the mountains with 
     a wheelchair!

Look at this video. What is the problem?

Meaning of life is more to life than being happy

The second video is about happiness and the four pillars of meaning of life

  1. belonging
  2. purpose
  3. transcendence
  4. storytelling

Emily Esfahani Smith has made an ambitious  psychological research and she tells about these pillars and about her own experience.

Our culture is obsessed with happiness, but what if there’s a more fulfilling path? Happiness comes and goes, says writer Emily Esfahani Smith, but having meaning in life — serving something beyond yourself and developing the best within you — gives you something to hold onto. (source:  )


You find the  transcript of Emilys speech in Teds site to have the speech translated in your language.

Click on the video below my list of key sentences 

here are selected Key sentences in the speech:

  1. 00:00
    • I used to think the whole purpose of life was pursuing happiness.
    • chasing happiness can make people unhappy. 
    • the suicide rate has been rising around the world
    • more people feel hopeless, depressed and alone. 
  2.   01:30
    • what’s the difference between being happy and having meaning in life?
    • psychologists define happiness as a state of comfort and ease, feeling good in the moment.
    • Meaning though, is deeper.
    • The renowned psychologist Martin Seligman says “meaning comes from belonging to and serving something beyond yourself and from developing the best within you.”
    • Our culture is obsessed with happiness, but I came to see that seeking meaning is the more fulfilling path.
    • And the studies show that people who have meaning in life, they’re more resilient, they do better in school and at work, and they even live longer.
  3.   02:19
    • I spent five years interviewing hundreds of people and reading through thousands of pages of psychology, neuroscience and philosophy.
    • I found that there are what I call four pillars of a meaningful life.
    • And we can each create lives of meaning by building some or all of these pillars in our lives.
  4.   02:49
    • The first pillar is belonging.
    • Belonging comes from being in relationships where you’re valued for who you are intrinsically and where you value others as well.
    • But some groups and relationships deliver a cheap form of belonging; you’re valued for what you believe, for who you hate, not for who you are.
    • True belonging springs from love. It lives in moments among individuals, and it’s a choice — you can choose to cultivate belonging with others.
  5. 04:02 about rejecting
    • I think we all reject people in small ways … without realizing it.
    • These acts devalue others. They make them feel invisible and unworthy. But when you lead with love, you create a bond that lifts each of you up.
  6. 04:25
    • For many people, belonging is the most essential source of meaning, those bonds to family and friends.
    • For others, the key to meaning is the second pillar: purpose.
    • Now, finding your purpose is not the same thing as finding that job that makes you happy.
    • Purpose is less about what you want than about what you give. A hospital custodian told me her purpose is healing sick people. Many parents tell me, “My purpose is raising my children.”
    • The key to purpose is using your strengths to serve others. Of course,
    • for many of us, that happens through work. That’s how we contribute and feel needed. But that also means that issues like disengagement at work, unemployment, low labor force participation. these aren’t just economic problems, they’re existential ones, too.
    • Without something worthwhile to do, people flounder. Of course, you don’t have to find purpose at work,
    • but purpose gives you something to live for, some “why” that drives you forward.
  7. 05:31
    • The third pillar of meaning is also about stepping beyond yourself, but in a completely different way: transcendence. Transcendent states are those rare moments when you’re lifted above the hustle and bustle of daily life, your sense of self fades away, and you feel connected to a higher reality.
    • For one person I talked to, transcendence came from seeing art.
    • For another person, it was at church.
    • For me, I’m a writer, and it happens through writing. Sometimes I get so in the zone that I lose all sense of time and place.
    • These transcendent experiences can change you.
    • One study had students look up at 200-feet-tall eucalyptus trees for one minute. But afterwards they felt less self-centered, and they even behaved more generously when given the chance to help someone.
  8. 06:21
    • Belonging, purpose, transcendence. Now, the fourth pillar of meaning, I’ve found, tends to surprise people.
    • The fourth pillar is storytelling, the story you tell yourself about yourself. Creating a narrative from the events of your life brings clarity. It helps you understand how you became you. But we don’t always realize that we’re the authors of our stories and can change the way we’re telling them. Your life isn’t just a list of events. You can edit, interpret and retell your story, even as you’re constrained by the facts.
  9. 06:59
    • I met a young man named Emeka, who’d been paralyzed playing football. After his injury, Emeka told himself, “My life was great playing football, but now look at me.” People who tell stories like this — “My life was good. Now it’s bad.” — tend to be more anxious and depressed. And that was Emeka for a while. But with time, he started to weave a different story. His new story was, “Before my injury, my life was purposeless. I partied a lot and was a pretty selfish guy. But my injury made me realize I could be a better man.” That edit to his story changed Emeka’s life. After telling the new story to himself, Emeka started mentoring kids, and he discovered what his purpose was: serving others.
    • The psychologist Dan McAdams calls this a “redemptive story,” where the bad is redeemed by the good.
    • People leading meaningful lives, he’s found, tend to tell stories about their lives defined by redemption, growth and love.
  10. 08:08
    • But what makes people change their stories? Some people get help from a therapist, but you can do it on your own, too, just by reflecting on your life thoughtfully, how your defining experiences shaped you, what you lost, what you gained. That’s what Emeka did. You won’t change your story overnight; it could take years and be painful. After all, we’ve all suffered, and we all struggle.
    • But embracing those painful memories can lead to new insights and wisdom, to finding that good that sustains you.
  11. 08:42 Emily Esfahani’s own experience
    • Belonging, purpose, transcendence, storytelling: those are the four pillars of meaning. When I was younger,
    • I was lucky enough to be surrounded by all of the pillars. My parents ran a Sufi meetinghouse from our home in Montreal. Sufism is a spiritual practice associated with the whirling dervishes and the poet Rumi. Twice a week, Sufis would come to our home to meditate, drink Persian tea, and share stories.
    • Their practice also involved serving all of creation through small acts of love, which meant being kind even when people wronged you.
    • But it gave them a purpose: to rein in the ego.
  12. 09:28
    • Eventually, I left home for college and without the daily grounding of Sufism in my life, I felt unmoored. And I started searching for those things that make life worth living. That’s what set me on this journey. Looking back,
    • I now realize that the Sufi house had a real culture of meaning.
    • The pillars were part of the architecture, and the presence of the pillars helped us all live more deeply.
  13. 09:54
    • Of course, the same principle applies in other strong communities as well — good ones and bad ones. Gangs, cults: these are cultures of meaning that use the pillars and give people something to live and die for.
    • But that’s exactly why we as a society must offer better alternatives.
    • We need to build these pillars within our families and our institutions to help people become their best selves.
    • But living a meaningful life takes work. It’s an ongoing process. As each day goes by, we’re constantly creating our lives, adding to our story. And sometimes we can get off track.
  14. 10:36
    • Whenever that happens to me, I remember a powerful experience I had with my father. Several months after I graduated from college, my dad had a massive heart attack that should have killed him. He survived, and when I asked him what was going through his mind as he faced death, he said all he could think about was needing to live so he could be there for my brother and me, and this gave him the will to fight for life. When he went under anesthesia for emergency surgery, instead of counting backwards from 10, he repeated our names like a mantra. He wanted our names to be the last words he spoke on earth if he died.
  15. 11:21
    • My dad is a carpenter and a Sufi. It’s a humble life, but a good life. Lying there facing death, he had a reason to live: love. His sense of belonging within his family, his purpose as a dad, his transcendent meditation, repeating our names — these, he says, are the reasons why he survived. That’s the story he tells himself.
  16. 11:47
    • That’s the power of meaning. Happiness comes and goes.
    • But when life is really good and when things are really bad, having meaning gives you something to hold on to.








Having listened to Tenzin and Emily I have now come to a few conclusions.

  • I think it is interesting Emily grew up in a sufi family. I have myself been in contact with sufi people.

My story of pillars

  • I had  my  first pillar of belonging, purpose and trascendence  as a teenager in Torino in Italy.  I wanted to become a surgeon like my German uncle and I had many good friends and I fell in love 14 years old. I had also several transcendent purposes writing poetry, skying and diving. When I were 18 yeas old I  wanted to write a book about life and Universe not knowing about my grandfathers project. Carlo Sessa,  a  Italian friend to my family, said that it was impossible to write such a book as there was far to much information to have in a book. I abandonded therefore this idea.
  • When I were 19 years old, I loosed all my pillars, as my parents separated,  I had to leave Italy laving all my friends and go back to Sweden. I could not become a surgeon as I got a bad vote in Latin and Swedish.  I had my first crisis in life.
  • I found  however a pillar of transcendence and belonging joining a dance jazz group for a few years and getting in love again. 
    When I were thirty, a new belonging pillar grew up living with  my wife and family with two children in a nice and friendly neighbourhood. 
    Because the pillar of purpose in computer programming, in my work and with www. from 1995, took over much of relationship time I ended up in a separation from my family and neighbourhood. I had therefore my second crisis in life with panic anxiety. 
  • I recovered however and came back to work after 5 months.
  • The pillar of belonging  to my colleagues  (I epeccially remember my good friend and colleague Stig Fjellman in my school and  all good friend volunteers in www. became stronger and stronger . It took however  time for me to be valued for who I was as a teacher.
  • the purpose of my life came to be, becoming a better math teacher attending a lot of courses for teachers <nd   “Having my student to become good programmers and webmasters” writing html pages for the school and winning technique competitions.  I wanted to  “Make my students more  intrested in math and Science” and getting better results in math. As a student coach I wanted them ” to find a goal in life and with the school”.
  • After 10/11 my work purpose became to have my muslim students and meself  better understand the Quran hopefully  as a message of peace, my students finding other goals in life than joining ISIS like one of our students did dying in Syria. 
  • the pillar od transcendence. Teaching about evolution and having many discussions about it with my Muslim students and a Persian colleague, I became more and more intrested in Islam and Zoroastrism. I started to write about it in blogs.
  • The work became to stressy because of many colleagues leaving my school to work somewhere else. My pillar of belonging became dismantled and I had my third crisis in life with mutliple strokes, mental fatigue and a third separation.
  • I am now back to my teenager dream I abandoned 18 years old,  preparing for the book “The Creation of man and Universe, 100 years later” in this site and in
  • I understand now that depending on the pillars of purpose and transcendence you risc to dismantle the pillar of belonging like it  happened to me several times.
  • Like my daughter reminded me about is that the meaning of purpose may hide a subconscious search for belonging and you may sometimes need collaboration to reach your purposes like I  did with my programming. 
  • The dismantleling of pillars of meaning had me end up in crisis exactly as Emely tells about in her speech.

As a former teacher and now a president of a no profit organization ( )   that leads school projects with the purpose to enhance a global dialog among youth,  I can not avoid thinking about our youth.

I think it is important for our youth to help them 

  1. avoid and get rid of phobias. as these causes stress
  2. develope cooperation
  3. get fulfilled within themselves
  4. understand the value of relationship and collaboration (the pillar of belonging  and not let  theirpillars of purposes and transcendence dismantle theirpillar of belonging.
  5. get free from previous  traumas that have been hidden in their subconscious (this is part of the Buddhist psychology.  )
  6. to not hunt happiness that wont really make them happy
  7. To find at least one  pillar of meaning of life
  8. where “meaning comes from belonging to and serving something beyond yourself and from developing the best within you.”
  9. not feel alone and enter relationships as a free will and not as an escape from lonelyness
  10. If they wish and want to spend time for it, look for sane  relationships without dependencies
  11. relationships with genuine love as Tenzin defines it,
  12. get relationships where  they are valued for who they are, like Emily said in her speech

Another research about happiness came to the conclusion that belonging is the most important pillar to make you happy with one exception:

  • Good relationships keep us happier and healthier
  • social connections are really good for us, 
  • loneliness kills
  • it’s the quality of your close relationships that matters
  • High-conflict marriages, for example, without much affection, turn out to be very bad for our health
  • The people who were the most satisfied in their relationships at age 50 were the healthiest at age 80
  • good relationships don’t just protect our bodies, they protect our brains
  • The people in our 75-year study who were the happiest in retirement were the people who had actively worked to replace workmates with new playmates.
  • The good life is built with good relationships

I like Michio Kakus view on purpose in life:

You have to discover meaning yourself. it is a process of self discovery. Search in yourself. 

Another research about staying alive.

  • Social integration is the most important factor that help you have a long life. (Source: Ted )

.Learn more looking at this speech: