Emily Esfahani Smith - Grace A. Tanner Lecture - APEX 02/03/2022

Emily Esfahani Smith

February 3, 2022
The Great Hall

Reflection | VideoPhotos

Emily Esfahani Smith is a writer in Washington DC. In her writing, she draws on psychology, philosophy, and literature to write about the human experience — why we are the way we are and how we can find grace and meaning in a world that is full of suffering. 

Her book The Power of Meaning, an international bestseller, was published by Crown and has been translated into 16 different languages. The Wall Street Journal called the book "persuasive," "elegant," and "valuable" while the Prospect (UK) dubbed it "an intelligent page-turner."


On February 3, Emily Esfahani Smith was SUU’s APEX guest speaker for the 40th anniversary of the Grace A Tanner Center of Human Values.

Danielle Dubrasky, director of the Grace A Tanner Center for Human Values at SUU, introduced Smith. Smith is a journalist, philosopher and psychologist from Washington DC who released a book in 2017 called, The Power Of Meaning: Finding Fulfillment in a World Obsessed with Happiness, which was what the APEX lecture was all about - “how to find meaning in hard times.”

Smith explained that “people who have a sense of meaning and life experience a greater longevity and stronger immune systems. Meaning enlivens the body that protects you, from not only emotional stressors but physical stressors as well.”

Meaning is the key to having a very satisfying life. Smith said that “when you have meaning you can withstand whatever it is that life throws your way. Meaning connects and contributes to something beyond yourself.”

Smith declared that there are “four pillars of meaning - sense of belonging, purpose, transcendence, and storytelling.”

Smith stated that the first pillar, “belonging, is about a certain kind of relationship: One in which you are valued for who you are intrinsically and where you value the other person for who they are intrinsically.”

The second pillar of meaning in purpose. Smith explained that “when people have that sense of purpose, they have this reason to get up in the morning to help them get through the good and bad.”

The third pillar is transcendence. Smith expressed that “there is transcendence all around us in Cedar City. Transcendent moments are when you are lifted above the hustle and bustle of daily life, where you can step outside of your own head and connect to something awe-inspiring and something much bigger than yourself.

Finally, the last pillar of meaning is storytelling. Smith stated that “we are storytellers of our lives. We have an ongoing narrative. Therapists make you retell your story in a healthier way.” Smith stated that “human beings have a need for meaning that is powerful and vital to our emotional and spiritual health. Without meaning, we suffer in profound ways.”

Leaving the audience with one final thought, Smith asked “what are your sources of meaning?”