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What is the Good Life?

A Forum Discusses Life, Our World and Our Place in It

By Myra Saturen,

What is our place in the world?  As part of Northampton Community College's yearlong exploration of The Good Life, five members of the NCC community gave thoughtful replies to this question at a forum on March 30.   

Dr. Gina Turner, associate professor of psychology, earned her Ph.D. in psychology from the New School for Social Research and was a post-doctoral fellow at New York's Mt. Sinai School of Medicine, where she investigated psychological factors in mental illness.  She spoke about how books changed her life, especially Authentic Happiness by Martin Seligman.  The book ranks three kinds of happiness: that which comes from a pleasant life of material comfort, a good life of passion for a loved activity and the meaningful life, embracing a full immersion in purposes greater than oneself.  "I wish you a balanced life, including

Ruby Johnson

 all three of the definitions above," she said.    

Mina Mouine, a multi-lingual computer science major at NCC, came to the United States, by herself, from Morocco in search of higher education.  She goes to school full-time while holding a full-time job. "Everything happens for a reason," she says, noting that life contains good and sad occurrences.  She quoted the following from Walt Whitman's poem "O Me! O Life!"  "That you are here - that life exists and identity."  Mouine believes that to be happy one must have a positive outlook about oneself.  "Life is too short to destroy it by thinking in negative ways," she said.    That you are here-that life exists and identity,That you are here-that life exists and identity,That you are here-that life exists and identity,  

Ruby Johnson, an NCC alumna and Ph.D. candidate at George Washington University, discussed her "Lessons from the Archives: Discovering My Good life in Other Women's Diaries."  After earning her associate degree from NCC, she received a bachelor's degree from Moravian College and a master's degree from Villanova University.  She edited the papers of Eleanor Roosevelt and has published work on Emily Davis, a nineteenth-century Mormon suffragette and advocate for polygamous marriage. In the writings and examples of little-known women like Davis, she has found her passion.  "Dig deeply," she said.  "Be interested, learn from people past and present, listen closely."       

Muhammad Yousaf, an emergency services major, is an international student from Pakistan.  There, he worked on a United Nations project of relief and recovery in underserved areas and led an emergency response unit in southern Pakistan for people internally displaced during operations against the Taliban. He credits his ambition to lead a meaningful life to meeting rural, Pakistani schoolboys sitting on their only "classroom seats," stones.  "I asked an eight-year-old what he wanted to become.  He answered 'a pilot.'  These children had nothing, and yet they had motivation," he said.  Yousaf thus found his key to a good life: perseverance, positivity and helping people.     

Dr. Charles Rinehimer, professor of biology at NCC for 25 years, grew up in the 1960s, when he participated in the antiwar movement.  In defining his place in the world, he hearkened to his ancestors.  Through, he discovered six generations of forbears, headed by a third-great-grandfather who immigrated to Pennsylvania from the Rhineland before the Revolutionary War.  Gener

Muhammad Yousaf

ation after generation, these progenitors farmed, married and raised large families.  Rinehimer imagined that these ancestors could look back on their lives with fulfilment.  He urged his audience to examine and experience their own lives through a personal lens rather than society's projections.   

During an audience discussion following the forum, recent Lehigh Valley resident Greg Prehodka said that NCC helps him have a good life through their many educational programs.   

The Good Life series will culminate in a keynote speech by National Book Award winner and internationally acclaimed writer Colum McCann on Thursday, April 14 at 7:30 p.m. at Lipkin theatre, Kopecek Hall, Bethlehem Campus.   There will be a livestream at the Monroe Campus, Keystone Hall. This event is free and open to the public, although advance registration is required for the lecture at the Bethlehem Campus.  To make reservations, go to or call 610-861-5519.  No reservations are required for the live stream at the Monroe Campus. McCann is the author of Let the Great World Spin, Thirteen Ways of Looking and TransAtlantic. He is also the founder of Narrative 4, an organization that fosters empathy by breaking down barriers and shattering stereotypes through the exchange of stories throughout the world.  

Exploration of this year's theme is made possible by an endowment for the humanities established through a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities and generous donors. Community partners include the Bethlehem Area Public Library, Eastern Monroe Public Library, Bethlehem Area School District, Historic Bethlehem Museums and Sites, and the Monroe County Historical Association.

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