2014 Press Releases

UCC lecturer explores meaning of life

13 Oct 2014
Author and UCC lecturer Catherine Conlon signs copies of her new book, ‘Saol – Thoughts from Ireland on Life and Living’ Pictured: Dr Catherine Conlon (left) with Dr Paul Beirne (front) and Dr Fiona MacLeod of the Dept of Epidemiology and Public Health UCC and Tom McCarthy, Office of Media & Public Relations, UCC.

Author and UCC lecturer Dr Catherine Conlon has launched a new book on the meaning of life, with some of Ireland’s best-known personalities among the contributors. 

Dr Conlon signed copies of the new book, ‘Saol – Thoughts from Ireland on Life and Living’ (The Collins Press, €12.99) in Waterstones (Patrick Street, Cork) on 11 October 2014 for ‘Books Are My Bag’, an initiative by the Booksellers Association aimed at highlighting the importance of bookshops.

The collection aims to inspire self-reflection and lead readers to reconsider the real value of their lives. From the earliest times people have pondered why we are here and people continue to probe for reason and understanding of the human condition.

Contributors such as humanitarian Christina Noble, author Alice Taylor, astronaut Chris Hadfield, broadcaster Bill O’Herlihy, clinical psychologist Dr Tony Humphreys, author Roisin Meaney, journalist Fergal Keane and nearly 60 more speak openly about what it is to be alive today, the legacies (if any) they want to leave behind and what it means to live a useful life.

The collection also features contributions from UCC staff past and present, including scientist Dr William Reville and Professor Graham Parkes of the Department of Philosophy.

Dr Conlon, a lecturer in epidemiology and public health at UCC, is originally from Dublin but now lives in Blackrock, Cork.

She comments “I love this quote from Erwin Chargaff – ‘Science is wonderfully equipped to answer the question ‘How?’ but it gets terribly confused when you ask the question ‘Why?’’ so I decided to ask lots of different people “why are we here?” The result is ‘Saol - Thoughts from Ireland on Life and Living’, a compilation of insights from people from all walks of life – writers, artists, psychologists, journalists, politicians and even an astronaut!”

Dr Conlon’s keen interest in holistic health gave rise to her book 'Sonas: Celtic Thoughts on Happiness' (2009) that explored the depths beneath the distractions of modern life. She has also published a novel, 'Valentia', about island life off the coast of Kerry.

The launch inspired the Irish Examiner to canvass readers as to their thoughts on the topic:

The Cork News also features a profile on Dr Conlon ahead of the event:

 A review of the book can be viewed here: ‘The meaning of life – Saol takes on the big question’

The book can be purchased at the Collins Press website.

Some thoughtful insights from the contributors:

  • Arminta Wallace believes she was put on this earth to answer emails!
  • Barry Egan believes meditation has helped him to be less of a "moody crankypants".
  • Bill O’Herlihy wants to be remembered as someone who tried his best. Quietly.
  • Carlo Gébler believes he’s here, through a series of benign accidents, to fulfil a non-negotiable obligation, the care of an imagination.
  • Colm Keena rejoices in grammar, "one of the evolutionary wonders of the world".
  • Dermot Bolger’s poem to his late wife reminds us "there is no next time".
  • Every night, as Eleanor McEvoy goes to sleep, she thinks of three things she’s grateful for that happened during the day, and one thing she is looking forward to on the following day.
  • Christina Noble’s philosophy is about giving people a life, not just an existence. 'Noble', the film of her life, starring Deirdre O’Kane, will be released on 19 September 2014.
  • Noelle Campbell-Sharpe believes she is still here to offer a no-strings-attached sanctuary for the weary artist, blocked writer, where creativity could blossom.
  • Pat Storey, the first female bishop in western Europe, believes that having a sense of purpose is one of the keys to unlocking happiness in life.
  • Peter McVerry believes the purpose of life is to leave the world a better place.
  • Peter Sheridan remembers a man who said "Religion is for people who are afraid of hell, and spirituality is for those who have already been there."
  • Rosita Boland loves the urban prayer that is the graffiti written on a wall not far from her home – "You’re Alive. Avail of this once in a lifetime opportunity".

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