Lilly Colloquium speaker: Live a joyful life

Published 12:00 am Monday, February 25, 2013

From the sage perspective of his 66 years, Dr. Kurt Corriher shared advice on how to live a joyful life with those gathered for Catawba College’s 10th Annual Lilly Colloquium.  Beginning his remarks with lines from Poet Mary Oliver’s “The Summer Day,” Corriher spoke in the college’s Omwake-Dearborn Chapel on Feb. 19:

Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
With your one wild and precious life?

“One life, that’s what we get.  I am here to suggest that you live it joyfully,” Corriher said.  “Life is not a never-ending party.  Life contains sorrow, grief and pain and suffering — that comes with the territory.  But even in sorrow, grief and disappointment, you can always know that behind your tears life is good, life is joyful.”
Corriher, a faculty member who teaches German and Theatre Arts at Catawba and has served the college in many other capacities during his tenure, grew up in southern Rowan County.  He earned his undergraduate degree in German and history at Davidson College and went onto earn both his MFA in drama and his Ph.D. in German from UNC Chapel Hill.  A former Fulbright Fellow to Vienna, Austria, Corriher is also an actor, director, author and dramatist.
While admitting that his own life was fraught with the business of making a living, Corriher shared his ideas for how one can live a joyful life.
“You have to have some sort of creativity in your life,” he said.  “And you always want to be respected and valued by doing something that serves other people – that is essential to living a joyful life.
“People who are happy at their job, they are the people who become successful.  Joy and happiness make people successful.”
Noting the dilemma of having to earn a living, Corriher insisted that “you can find a way to make a living at whatever your passion is.  And if you can’t make a living at it, do it anyway — I suggest you work as close to it (your passion) as you can.”
He cited chronic unemployment among actors and said many actors never make a living practicing their passion.
“You can go into academics,” he suggested, as another avenue “to stay close to your passion and have it in your life.”
If you have no passion and have no clue, what then? he queried, and answered: “Read.  There are lots of materials to help you find your passion in life.”
Another way to find your passion is through experimentation.  “If you live life freely and abundantly, that’s how you know what inspires you.”
And what if your passion fades?  Corriher had an answer for that too.  “Well, you start over again and keep seeking.”
Continue to seek your passion, Corriher said, quoting Sir Winston Churchill:  “Never, never, never give in!”
He spoke of the importance of art in one’s life and said, “Art is life condensed.”  He paraphrased C.S. Lewis saying, “Through art, we learn to know we’re not alone.”
Corriher admitted what he wishes he had done in his life.  “I made a mistake.  I should have pursued a writing career more seriously.  I’ll tell you why I did not — fear.  I had a wife, a family, a mortgage.  I didn’t write because I was afraid.”
But despite this regret, Corriher concluded, “I can’t remember a moment when I didn’t think in my heart: ‘Dear God, thank you for life.’ ”