Magnificent Life, a life worth living indeed

Sometimes I wonder if there would be anyone who wouldn’t want to live a magnificent life. Perhaps it’s true, we would all want to live such a life, and yet we content ourselves to living the simple life instead. Why is that the case? This was the question I pondered over during one of my electives from philosophy, a course called Magnificent Life, by no other than the philosopher, Esa Saarinen, himself.

However, before I go into my experience from that course, I would like to mention a unique aspect of Aalto University, which actually pushed me to apply and accept a place in this university. It was this degree of flexibility in choosing courses, even when one would belong to a particular degree or program. Of course, there are mandatory courses, but alongside those, there is freedom in choosing whichever courses you would like, even from diverse fields like philosophy or arts. As an example; I am a Strategy major, with minor in Global Innovation Program and electives from Philosophy, a unique combination which I couldn’t have found anywhere else in Europe.

Now, moving on to the course, although the name itself was super intriguing, I had chosen it for mainly two reasons. One of them being my fascination and fondness of philosophy as a subject and secondly, I wanted to experience being taught by the philosopher, Esa Saarinen, who is considered a popular icon in Finland. The course was structured over two whole day-long sessions comprising of various themes related to life in general. Apart from being a full house, an interesting aspect of the course was that it comprised of students from various backgrounds and age groups. During our group discussions and reflection sessions, I had a chance to interact with people from photography and arts majors as well as professionals who had taken the course, just to get a different perspective on life.

The exclusive themes in Esa’s lectures initiated thought-provoking discussions amongst the course participants within the course duration as well as beyond. This was partially because every single person has their own unique perspective on life, which has been shaped by either their values or experiences, and additionally, the discussed themes gave an opportunity to converse about and learn from each other’s varying perspectives. It is truly amazing how people’s minds work in different ways and then again there are many points where most of these minds are totally in sync. These themes often take a backseat in our minds as we are too occupied in balancing our ways through the bunch of things that are usually happening in our lives at a single point. We tend to overlook the very things that bring meaning to our lives and make life worth living.

One of these themes covered how there is so much more to a person than what meets our eye, which is also the dilemma we face in our everyday lives, where we tend to jump to conclusions on the apparentness of a person, without thinking of what else there might be that person could be going through. It was during this time I was reminded of the quote by Anne Frank; “After everything, I believe that people are generally good at heart.” Although it’s challenging to stand by this thought in the world filled with atrocities, the aspect of giving the other person the benefit of the doubt can go a long way in changing the way we feel. In the words of Esa; “The kindness you exhibit towards others, be it in whichever form, even as small as a smile or a simple ‘good job’ will never go in vain in your own life”.

The course seminar days allowed me to take a break from the hectic schedules at that time and contemplate over living my life in a way that is not only great for myself, but also for others. It brought the much-needed pause to the hustle which has normally become a part of our lives. Through the course, I was able to expand the boundaries of my reflective thinking upon those paradigms which I normally did not ponder upon, either because I was too naive or because I just did not have the time or the will to do it. The course, however, brought me this realization and significance of reflection and contemplation, about my own life’s meaningfulness in general.

Here’s me with the philosopher and teacher, Esa Saarinen, after the conclusion of the course

In conclusion, I am truly grateful for having been able to attend the course and benefit from the various discussions and conversations I shared with different people. Here’s a small poem I wrote during the seminar, about my feelings during the course, Magnificent Life.

In the midst of strategy, business and design thinking,
I was, but, engulfed in the rising heaps of assignments and projects,
To come across an opportunity, to let the mind wander,
In the form of a course about life,
To be taught by a philosopher, Esa.
An unusual but welcoming chance nonetheless,
To evoke a reflection, of a life that has been lived,
And a life that remains to be lived,
For to live a life unexamined, is not worth living.
From life changing situations, to thought-provoking video cuts,
Pushing the mind to go in a state of trance, and think,
From listening to jaw-dropping stories,
Moving the stoned hearts within,
Making the fascinating atmosphere truly emotional,
To observe an absolutely diverse bunch of people,
From various backgrounds,
I find myself, albeit a little tired, but entirely mesmerized.
Only a few sessions of talking, spread over just a couple of days,
And yet, things said, go a long way,
In making one feel the warmth and connectivity.
Philosophy, an intriguing subject,
Love, an ensorcelling concept,
Humor, a beautiful personification,
Magnificent Life, a life worth living indeed.

More info:
Magnificent Life – Introduction video

All study options at Aalto University:  https://www.aalto.fi/en/study-options


Afnan Ahmed
Master’s Program in Industrial Engineering & Management

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