The objectives of the Senior Seminar Program include the following: “Students will consider, discuss, and develop their own philosophy of life and write about it in a compelling, coherent, and disciplined manner.” The result is what students and faculty at Hope College have for decades called “The Lifeview Paper”: a synthesis of a student’s life story and worldview.
Q: What is a worldview?
A: A philosophy of life and a conception of the world, your worldview can be understood as a comprehensive perspective composed of your answers to the following questions: What is? Where does it all come from? Where are we going? What is good and what is evil? How should we act? and What is true and what is false?
Q: What is a life story?
A: Something between an autobiography and a memoir, your life story narrates where you came from, how you got here, and where you are going. It also identifies the main characters (like your family and friends) and moments that were critical to your development. Your life story might also identify major themes, turning points, etc.
I tell students that, as a synthesis of your life story and your worldview, your Lifeview Paper will use one to explain the other. For example, you might illuminate some of your convictions using moments from the narrative of your life. Or, you might make sense of your life journey (particularly as you look to your future) through a reflection upon what you find most valuable. In their book, Hidden Worldviews (InterVarsity Press, 2013), authors Steve Wilkens and Mark L. Sanford (with help from Steve Green) provide a graphic representation of the concept of a life story and its relationship to aspects of a worldview:
The components of this model are:
- story: the central narrative of your life
- identity: how you see yourself and present yourself to others
- convictions: those beliefs that make up how reality works for you
- values/ethics: what you believe you should do and what you take to be your highest priorities
- morals/actions: the realm of doing that includes all of our activities
Using this approach, one way to understand the Lifeview Paper assignment is that it is a synthesis of your life story and worldview in which you write the central narrative of your life, how you see yourself and present yourself to others, those beliefs that make up how reality works for you, what you believe you should do and what you take to be your highest priorities, and the realm of doing that includes all of your activities. Your Senior Seminar instructor will give you direct guidance on the assignment and might use different language and terminology to describe it.
Nevertheless, when a student writes a Lifeview Paper, she invariably addresses aspects of both her worldview and her life story. What’s more important, a meaningful Lifeview Paper does not overly emphasize one at the expense of the other. This is neither an autobiography/memoir (life story) nor a statement of faith (worldview) but, instead, a synthesis of the two.