3 Big Questions


Richard Schaper



Does life have a spiritual dimension?

Without a spiritual dimension life would be flat.

We live in time, in space, and also in spirit, which is the third dimension. Spirit is the dimension of meaning, of quality, that gives life its fullness. The spiritual realm transcends both time and space, bringing us into communion with what has gone before and with what cannot be measured. “The soul rejoices to hear what it knows is true.” (Rumi)


Do you think life has a purpose?

If life did not have a purpose I would not be living, nor writing this.

Seeking in the death camps to discern the root of why some fellow prisoners’ eyes grew vacant and they perished while others in similar circumstances managed to survive, Viktor Frankl came to realize that those who survived did so because they had found some shred of meaning to which to cling. For one man, this shred of meaning was that by being the one who survived, he was sparing his dead wife from having to endure this suffering. This kernel gave his life purpose, reason to wake up the next morning, and he survived. Like him, I want to live before I die.


What is your purpose in life?

When I was eighteen and went away to college I felt vulnerable and alone.

I had never lived apart from my family nor had any other member of my family walked the path on which I placed my feet. I wandered one day on a path that led around the hill to an interfaith meditation center which included exceptional works of original art from various world religions. In the entranceway I encountered a small bronze statue of a figure rapt in silence. Beneath it was a plaque that said: “Silence. For it is only in silence that one finds God. (Emilio Faggi)”

I stood in front of this figure for a long time. The concept of finding God in silence was totally new to me.

Entering the library I was drawn to another sculpted figure on the far side of the room – the extraordinarily tranquil feminine visage of a Buddha. On the plaque, the label read: “Kwan Yin. The Buddha of Infinite Compassion.”

As I slowly took this notion in – compassion that was limitless – it began to deeply resound within me. Like the knell of a temple bell, it began to resonate in the depths of my being. In those moments of silence I was encountering that which claimed my ultimate allegiance. I was moved to see to see that nothing was more worthy of my life than a life reflecting infinite compassion.

Although I was given this glimpse of ultimate reality nearly 50 years ago, I did not manage to hold on to it at the time. Instead I spent many decades searching for what I had already found – a center for my life. Or perhaps it was the center that had found me, and it has taken all this time for me to realize this – that my purpose in life is to become a more compassionate person.

The practice for me which embodies and promotes this purpose is that of Christian faith, for I see Jesus as the incarnation of the Tao, God’s wisdom for creation. For me, the compassion of Jesus is what leads me to life, to meaning, and to joy. “Joy is the infallible sign of the presence of God.” (Leon Bloy)

A key spiritual resource in my life is the Hermitage in Big Sur (contemplation.com) whose homage to silence, prayer and hospitality witnesses to our universal longing for oneness.

About Richard

RSchaper2The Reverend Richard Schaper studied Politics, Philosophy and Economics as a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University.

He also studied philosophy and religion at Colgate University, theology at the University of Chicago, ethics at Yale University, financial planning at Golden Gate University and the management of nonprofit organizations at the University of San Francisco.

Growing up Lutheran, then worshipping with Quakers and zazen training with Zenki Shibayama Roshi prepared him for nine years as a Benedictine monk at Weston Priory.

Richard’s experiences as a monk, hospital chaplain, parish pastor, and certified financial planner have prepared him for a pastoral and spiritual perspective in financial and estate planning.

His wife, the Reverend Anita Ostrom, PhD., is a psychotherapist.

Richard comes from a seafaring family and enjoys fishing and sailing.