Fourteen Precepts in Fifteen Days

Fourteen Precepts in Fifteen Days

Fourteen Precepts in Fifteen Days

Eleventh: Do not live with a vocation that is harmful to humans and nature. Do not invest in companies that deprive others of their chance to life. Select a vocation which helps realize your goal of compassion.
Being Peace, by Thich Nhat Hanh

I love the idea of vocation. Of course, growing up Catholic, the word always had a certain sotto voce cachet (especially in my materialistic, wealthy suburb) he thinks he might have a vocation. And for me it carried directly over into the idea of writing, of being a writer. My first literary love was Joyce, specifically Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and I used to whisper under my breath Joyce’s ringing exhortation to “go forth and forge out of the smithy of my soul, the uncreated conscience of my race.” Talismanic words. From the beginning, I saw becoming a writer as a vocation, as a cause to spend my life upon. Preparing to move last summer, I went through and organized all my old journals, journals I hadn’t looked at in years, and there I was, at eighteen, nineteen, ablaze with passion for words, copying out enormous chunks of novels and poems, copying them into books, copying them onto bits of paper I’d pin to my walls, holding these talismans as if to convince myself not only that writing was a noble vocation, but that it could be mine. It was both endearing and embarassing, but mostly endearing.

The idea of vocation, of a life-long passion, a life-long project to which one is dedicated is, like living small, a somewhat heretical concept in “modern America” — we’re all supposed to be flexible, to mutlitask, to be willing to move across country for a job, to be continually trading up, whether it’s houses or spouses or possessions. We’re supposed only to care about money. Well, we’re supposed to care about our families too, but that care is supposed to manifest itself as material things we buy for them. It’s one of the things that makes “normal” America a real mystery to me. Do people really care that much about stuff? Can the pursuit of stuff really be so interesting as to consume a life? What are their inner lives like, those blond women in their SUVs speeding through the the parking lot of Whole Foods in San Ramon? I suppose if I was a more imaginative writer, I could make that the subject of my next novel.

Out here in the lefty blogosphere, writing about this precept feels like preaching to the choir. Look at the list of links to the right, there isn’t a one of them who is blogging about getting more stuff. If we were dedicated to piling up wealth, we certainly wouldn’t all have time to keep blogging for one another. We wouldn’t all be out here questioning our government during a time of war, trying to keep one another’s spirits up. Blogging as vocation? Something to think about.

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