The OPA! Way: Finding Joy & Meaning in Everyday Life & Work
“The OPA! Way facilitates our discovering again, awakening, the psyche of our own personal and collective psychology amidst the business of today’s life. In its pages, there is much wisdom to be gained for living more positive, fulfilling, and meaningful lives.”
The word psychology arrives to us from the Greek psyche (soul) and logos (word, speech, discourse). Today, it is generally assumed that psychology is the study of observable, measurable behavioral phenomena with the understanding that such phenomena is the product of biomechanical processes of the central nervous system.
While the biomedical model of understanding human beings has wielded some interesting and useful information, it has been the object of considerable scrutiny lately. Of the many criticisms leveled at it, one is pathologizing human experience, laying too heavy of an emphasis on the ways human experiencing goes awry. Indeed, psychological processes do go awry and can cause much suffering to self and others.
Equally, if not more so, true is that most people seek to find positive personal meaning in their lives. We have the DSM, the so-called diagnostic “Bible” of psychiatry, but we have yet to have a “Bible” of living meaningful, purposeful lives. We have endless diagnostic codes and interventions for psychological processes gone wrong, but no equivalent in the affirmative.
Alex Pattakos’ and Elaine Dundon’s The OPA! Way: Finding Joy and Meaning in Everyday Life and Work successfully reaches back into ancient Greece to discover anew the wisdom it has for our everyday lives today. It is an attempt to recognize psyche in everyday life and it does so not in a heady, academic fashion, but in easily accessible and downright practical ways. The authors evade any promotion of superficial (e.g. New Age) optimism, instead encouraging a brave exploration of discovering personal meaning in life.
The authors cleverly use the mnemonic device OPA! to organize their book: Others (O): Connect Meaningfully to Others, Purpose (P): Engage with Deeper Purpose, and Attitude (A): Embrace Life and Attitude. They convincingly demonstrate that the wisdom of ancient Greece is timeless, archetypal.
One of the greatest achievements of the Greek mind is the discovery that the purpose of life was the unfoldment, or manifestation (aletheia) of a person’s character (ethos), to become the individual he or she was meant to be. Greek culture, myths, primordial themes (archetypes) represent the person’s quest towards living a meaningful, joyful life. Said differently, one’s soul (psyche) was populated, constructed by the themes (gods, goddesses, and other characters) found in Greek mythology. The individual’s sojourn through life was not unlike the epic adventures of the great heroes and heroines found in mythology. In the various myths, the hero or heroine learns valuable lessons, gains insights and confronts grave dangers. This, according to the authors, has tremendous import for the individual on his or her path in contemporary everyday life.
It is important to note that while the authors do discuss personal meaning, which is not formed but discovered, they are not advocating for anything like rugged individualism. Rather, they discuss personal meaning within the context of relationships to others and to community.
It is within the context of the metaphorical village that they explore the notions of hospitality, honor, knowing oneself, arête, evdemonia, fullness of life, aphobia, wellbeing, and other critical aspects of life. Throughout the book, there is a ceaseless focus upon the unity of individuals to others, community and the world as a whole. This fundamental unity embraces the multivariate, sometimes conflicting, dimensions of human experience. Whether it is the simple pleasures or the deeper facets of life, there is a continual accent upon the necessity of embracing life and taking the time to slow down, to deepen relationships, to understand the value of community.
It is the absence of these things, the authors argue, that has people in their present predicament: overly busy, yet living stressed-out, unhealthful, relationally-disconnected existences. It is as if people today are overfed and undernourished, hyper-busy and unsatisfied.
The OPA! Way facilitates our discovering again, awakening, the psyche of our own personal and collective psychology amidst the business of today’s life. In its pages, there is much wisdom to be gained for living more positive, fulfilling, and meaningful lives.