Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Vocations: Christian and Secular

In this post, I talked about Middlemarch.  In many ways, it's a book about vocation.  I feel like I've been reading many books this year that look at vocation, but perhaps not from traditional angles.

I'm thinking of The Fellowship:  The Literary Lives of the Inklings, by Philip Zaleski and Carol Zaleski.  It looks at the literary and spiritual lives of the intellectual group, The Inklings, which included J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis.

The book returns many times to the idea of how these writers could best serve God, best serve their art, best serve their fellow citizens. During times of war, these questions took on poignancy, especially during World War II, when any projects undertaken might not be finished--and there was the larger question of why do any of it, when one's fellow citizens were being slaughtered.

Here's how C.S. Lewis reconciled these issues:

"The answer, for Lewis, has to do with the nature of Christian vocation.  A Christian may be called to heroic exertion or sacrifice or to more humble tasks.  The main thing is to stay at one's post.  If the life of a scholar is good in ordinary times, Lewis maintains, it remains good during war; if it is a frivolity during war, it has no place in a world at peace" (p.286-287).

I like this idea of staying at one's post.  I know that the danger is that we never realize when it's time to leave the post, but for people like me, who are convinced that the answer to all problems involves a move, I need this reminder of the value of stability, the commitment to place.

Yesterday, I was part of an audience who helped a group of students get ready for a competition.  They needed a group as they practiced their presentation.  I was glad to be part.  I spend the bulk of my days hearing from disgruntled students and distraught parents--it's good to be reminded of the larger picture, of the good that happens in the classrooms.

Last night, I didn't make it to the retirement celebration of a colleague at a school where I worked before my current school.  But the Facebook posts remind me of all the good that we do, even when we're not convinced that anything we do makes any difference at all.

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