Ten Things that Make Life Worth Living

Jacqueline Bussie shares her top ten insights for what makes life worth living.

If you have never met Jacqueline Bussie, then you should just skip to the video clip below so that you experience her uniquely exuberant form of wisdom. Jacqueline is the Director of the Forum on Faith and Life and a professor of Religion at Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota. Her book Love Without Limits (Fortress, 2018) was declared a “must read” book for Christians by Publisher’s Weekly. Her book Outlaw Christian (Thomas Nelson, 2016) won a 2017 Gold Medal Illumination Award for Christian Living. She has been an active member of NetVUE for many years, including speaking as part of a panel at the pre-conference gathering at the American Academy of Religion meeting in San Diego last November.

Jacqueline recently recorded a short video slip (26 minutes) in which she shared her “top ten” thoughts about what makes life worth living. The video is part of a series put together by the Living Well Center for Vocation and Purpose at Lenoir Rhyne University, where Mindy Makant is the director.

Drawing upon a range of influences that includes Mary Oliver, Rumi, and Alice Walker and weaving together anecdotes from her own life, Jacqueline offers a set of teachings that emphasize love and solidarity. She paints vivid pictures using gardening and other metaphors, describing the greasy overalls of working in “God’s repair shop” and underscoring the importance of learning to “compost your own pain.”

The video would work well as a focal point for a discussion with students, asking them to reflect on each of the teachings and make connections with their own lives. As a follow-up assignment, they could then be asked to come up with their own list, using Jacqueline’s model of putting together life stories and short mantras. These could be written as an essay or produced as a video clip, or with images in a narrated Powerpoint presentation. To encourage further reflection, students could then be asked to analyze their own compilation. From what sources do they draw for each of the insights? Personal experience? Religious texts? Family sayings? Popular aphorisms? How have they come to know these things as true?

For more philosophically ambitious students, the video could be paired with the classic essay by William James titled “Is Life Worth Living?” James begins and ends his essay with the jocular answer, “it depends on the liver.” For James, life “feels like a real fight,–as if there were something really wild in the universe which we, with all our idealities and faithfulnesses, are needed to redeem… For such a half-wild, have-saved universe our nature is adapted.” Jacqueline’s shining insights could be read as proving James’ point.

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