Let Your Life Speak

Before you tell your life what you intend to do with it, listen for what it intends to do with you. Before you tell your life what truths and values you have decided to live up to, let your life tell you what truths you embody, what values you represent. ~Parker J. Palmer, Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation

Now I become myself.
It’s taken time, many years and places.
I have been dissolved and shaken,
Worn other people’s faces….

~May Sarton, “Now I Become Myself”

Palmer reminds us that the word vocation is rooted in the Latin for “voice.” He has come to understand vocation as a gift to be received, rather than a goal to be achieved. Watching his granddaughter during the early days of her life, he could see that she had inclinations, preferences, and her own personality from birth. He says, “We are disabused of original giftedness in the first half of our lives. Then–if we are awake, aware, and able to admit our loss–we spend the second half trying to recover and reclaim the gift we once possessed.”

And he says: As May Sarton reminds us, the pilgrimage toward true self will take ‘time, many years and places.’ The world needs people with the patience and the passion to make that pilgrimage not only for their own sake but also as a social and political act. The world still waits for the truth that will set us free–my truth, your truth, our truth–the truth that was seeded in the earth when each of us arrived here formed in the image of God. Cultivating that truth, I believe, is the authentic vocation of every human being.

And: Our deepest calling is to grow into our own authentic selfhood, whether or not it conforms to some image of who we ought to be. As we do so, we will not only find the joy that every human being seeks–we will also find our path of authentic service in the world. True vocation joins self and service, as Frederick Buechner asserts when he defines vocation as ‘the place where your deep gladness meets the world’s deep need.’

This small volume of essays from Palmer leads us through his choices about vocation, his depression and dark periods, and his ultimate realization that he is a teacher. He believes our shared vocation, leadership in the world of action, is an outgrowth of our inner journeys. We should support one another’s inner work by creating “communities of solitudes,” not abandoning or trying to fix each other.

More ideas from Parker J. Palmer here.

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2 Responses to Let Your Life Speak

  1. Teresa says:

    The idea of “communities of solitudes” is particularly appealing to me. We’ve talked before about the appeal of being alone but not alone. That is, alone in the sense that we are devoting our time to something that feels meaningful to us personally, but still longing for some kind of connectedness with others in a common space.

    It is rare to have or to be a friend who really has no expectations of someone else. Even though we think a true friend wants you to be whoever you are, we really want them to be who we think they are. If the nature of a “true” friend reveals itself to you in a way that does not meet your expectation of friendship, has anyone changed? If so, who?

    We make our friends the way we want them to be in our minds. Sometimes that idea is so strong that it actually does manifest itself in the other person, especially if the impression is a positive one. Even if this impression is an illusion we tend to see the other person through this lense that we have created, and that is how we set ourselves up for deep disappointment. The way we feel about others ultimately says much less about the other person than it does about ourselves. Our “mind” help us feel comfortable in the company of others in the midst of our aloneness.

  2. Bill says:

    On the recent financial meltdown, someone has said, “Anyone who needs $30,000 an hour to get motivated is probably in the wrong line of work.”

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