UNIQUE CONTRIBUTION TO THE WORLD
What purposes will you pursue with your life?
the most part, we find ourselves (at least initially)
our time and energy to purposes
that were well-established before we
And probably this phase of self-development is impossible to avoid or
We develop our capacities to
by first giving ourselves to goals we adopted from our cultures,
by pursuing ready-made goals we did not create ourselves.
Only later do we develop the capacity
to pursue purposes no one else has ever tried before.
projects will never be done if YOU don't do them?
GOALS SHAPED BY EMPLOYERS.
II. MY EARLY PROFESSIONAL LIFE.
III. MY TEACHING IN NON-ACADEMIC
MY OTHER BOOKS.
YOUR UNIQUE CONTRIBUTION TO THE WORLD.
THE INTERNET AS ONE PLACE TO MAKE YOUR UNIQUE CONTRIBUTION.
VII. FOLLOW YOUR CREATIVE URGES.
UNIQUE CONTRIBUTION TO THE WORLD
James Leonard Park
I. GOALS SHAPED BY EMPLOYERS.
The economic realities into which we are born
tend to make us employees,
who pursue the purposes of the
organizations that pay us.
Our educational system is primarily intended
to help us to fit into the
world as it already exists
and to take jobs that are offered by established employers.
The assumption that we must 'make a living' is so
that we spend almost no time
in our early years
considering organizing our lives in any other ways.
We wonder which job
to take, not whether
to take a job.
Our employers are primarily concerned to have us
goods and services that were well-defined
before we were hired for those tasks.
If we make unique contributions to the world,
we probably create those meanings
being employed for other purposes.
II. MY EARLY
When I was beginning my adult life,
I was trained in a profession that existed before I came along.
I became a minister in the United Methodist Church.
I know I fulfilled that role in ways that no one else did,
but basically I was paid to perform certain functions
for congregations that were organized and on-going
before I was selected to
be their minister.
III. MY TEACHING IN
Later, when I began my free-lance life,
I was also doing some things that had been done before I came along.
I began to offer classes in the Minnesota Free University.
There was no committee that decided what I would teach.
I simply offered what seemed interesting to me.
And people decided to take my classes or to stay away.
As I look back on these classes,
I see that they were mostly my own content,
rather than anything like the classes offered in academic institutions.
My most successful classes
were the ones that resonated best with the current interests of the
My most popular class explored love in a new light.
In the early years it was called "Authentic Love: An Existential
Later this class (and the book that grew out of it)
was called "New
Ways of Loving: How Authenticity Transforms
And this continues to be one of my most popular books.
Such efforts illustrate the difference between
taking up an occupation
with a ready-made set of procedures
(as would have happened if I had taught college philosophy)
and pursuing goals that I
alone could have created.
Altho there were certainly thinkers before me who had similar ideas,
no other human being could have written my book on love.
And I believe it will stand as one of my unique contributions to the
IV. MY OTHER BOOKS.
Other books written by me were also unexpected and
This is one reason they have not easily found major publishers.
Publishers are ready and willing to print books
that they know will sell
because other books like them have sold well.
But books that present completely
cannot easily be marketed by the book industry.
But enough about me.
It is sufficient to say here that basically all of my books
are attempts to make unique contributions to the world.
Some have found a few readers directly by means of the Internet.
And a few have been revised for later editions
because readers continued to be interested in reading them.
V. YOUR UNIQUE
Your talents and interests probably lie in different
areas of human endeavor.
But whatever you are considering as your purpose in life,
there are probably some people before you
who have made unique contributions in the same field.
In philosophy, we can name the recognized thinkers
of the past.
These are the thinkers who are studied in philosophy classes.
If they had not created new ideas, they would not be studied.
Often their ideas are now replaced by better thinking,
but their contributions were original enough in their times
for them to be remembered as thinkers worth studying.
If you have some original contribution to make,
that contribution will ultimately be accepted
by the people who are open to what you have to offer.
gatekeepers close out new ideas:
Their role is to find new examples of what has already succeeded.
But if you are able to offer your unique contribution
directly to the people—as,
for example, by means of the Internet—
then some people who are looking to your contribution
will eventually discover it.
Consider the most original persons in your field of
Are genuinely new ideas recognized?
Is creativity really
Or are the rewards given to people who can do more of the same?
The arts are supposed to be areas of great
but the 'successful' artists are the ones
who can create art that happens to be popular
because it is close to the art that has already been selling in that
Consider the example of the entertainment industry:
Popular movies follow patterns established by popular movies of the
So here is the challenge of this cyber-sermon:
What can YOU offer the world
that years later will be acknowledged to be a unique contribution?
In what ways will your contribution differ from the other efforts
that will be made in your field even if you had never been born?
After you are dead, what will you be remembered for? (If anything?)
What benefit to the human
race will continue after you are gone?
How will you devote your unique talents to making a better world?
You probably do not have immediate answers to these
But if you keep asking questions like these,
then you might be able to make the day-to-day choices
that will ultimately lead you to make your unique contribution.
Perhaps the deepest of these questions
asks what you will be remembered
for after you are dead.
I ask this question of myself:
If I am remembered after I am dead
(by people other than those who knew me during my life),
what contribution will be the most significant?
I think that I will be best remembered
for the new concept of our 'Existential Predicament'.
This contribution is embodied in
Loneliness, Depression, Anxiety, & Death.
This book is now in its fifth edition.
But history might show that I am best remembered for
my book on love:
New Ways of
How Authenticity Transforms Relationships,
which is now in its sixth edition.
If YOU are remembered after you are dead,
what contribution to the world will be considered most significant?
One way to explore this question for your field of endeavor
is to ask about the unique contributions
of other persons who
are now dead.
When we name the unique contributions of others,
we are making more explicit what we consider to be meaningful creations.
And this process of naming the permanent gifts left by
might help us to ask the same question of our own lives:
What lasting benefits have we contributed to the world?
VI. THE INTERNET AS ONE
MAKE YOUR UNIQUE CONTRIBUTION.
Invented just before the beginning of the 21st
the Internet is a means by which
anyone can offer anything
to the rest of the world.
There are no gatekeepers to keep
out new ideas.
Whatever your fields of interest,
you can seek like-minded persons by means of the Internet.
My personal website now has more than 1,000 files.
And when I look for others who have written about the same issues,
they are usually few and far between.
Often I find no one else
who has tackled the subjects that interest me.
I invite you (the reader of this cyber-sermon)
to surf my website to evaluate how original my contributions might be:
An Existential Philosopher's Museum:
The least original parts are the book-reviews of
other people's books.
Other reviewers could have written most of what I say.
But I always offer my own critique of each book,
which usually has no parallel in other reviews.
You can test this out for yourself
by reading reviews of books in the areas of your own interest.
Here in my book review index:
You can also evaluate the most original parts of my
by looking at the areas of interest named by the 7 major doors:
LOVE, SEXOLOGY, EXISTENTIALISM,
UNIVERSALISM, MEDICAL ETHICS, & DEATH.
And if you can find other websites on the Internet
that deal with similar themes,
I would be happy to learn about them.
And I might create links to them
from the appropriate places on my own website.
I offer my own example from the Internet
because it is the set of offerings best known to me.
But future revisions of this cyber-sermon can offer other examples
if you suggest them to me.
And if your unique contribution to the world
can be expressed in words or images on the Internet,
then the Internet might be the best place to begin.
You can create your own website
as a means of offering your
unique contributions to the world.
VII. FOLLOW YOUR CREATIVE URGES.
If you are a creative person
(by which I mean able to invent something genuinely new),
use your creativity to make your unique contribution to the
In my experience, creativity is intermittent.
Most of my hours are not creative.
But I am glad for the freedom to follow my creative insights
when they do happen to me.
I encourage you also to follow your creative urges,
even if there is no obvious immediate benefit
to you or to other people in the world.
Later you can come back to see
which of your insights were most useful to the world.
What can be invented only by you?
If you had never been born
the world had existed completely without you—
what items of value would be missing?
What purposes can be pursued only by you?
What projects will never be
done if you don't do them?
10-19-2006; revised 9-5-2007; 2-29-2008; 10-10-2008; 1-22-2009;
9-3-2009; 4-29-2011; 11-18-2011; 7-1-2012; 5-9-2013
James Park is an independent existential philosopher,
living and creating in Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA.
He is the author of a dozen books, including
The Positive Side of Existentialism,
which is most closely related to this cyber-sermon.
Much more about him will be discovered on his website:
Here are two related cyber-sermons also by
The Positive Side of Existentialism
Here you will
find reviews of over 20 books, subdivided into:
Psychology, Biography, & Literature
If you would like to
see a course description
for a seminar on Authenticity, go to:
Go to the EXISTENTIALISM
Go to other
cyber-sermons by James Park,
organized into 10 subject-areas.
Go to the Unitarian
Universalist Campus Ministries page.
Return to the beginning
of this home page:
Existential Philosopher's Museum.