Wayne C. Allen's "Works in Progress"
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Universal Rules: Each person has a calling that is greater than him or her. Most people resist this idea.

meThis is me, too!

I suppose you could say that Forrest Gump is the ultimate demonstration of the concept of calling, purpose or vocation. It's been some years since I saw the movie, and I'm picking this flick to avoid the all too tempting idea that only "special" people have callings. I suspect that the opposite the case. All people have callings - only "special" people seem to notice. Or so it seems.

And then I remember listening to Ram Dass speak in Toronto back in '82. One of his concepts was the idea that the road to enlightenment was eased by practicing 'Nobody special training.'

For sure, though, some people, notice the pull of a calling, and the vast majority choose to miss it completely.

The idea of there being a difference between a vocation and a job goes back to the Middle Ages, and then to the Enlightenment. The thinking went that "god" called "special" people into service, and that service was to become a member of "the religious." Priests, monks and nuns were thought to have callings, or vocations. Prior to the Enlightenment, entering the priesthood was almost the only way to get an education. Everything we consider to be a helping profession was church run and supported. (i.e. churches ran hospitals and trained doctors.)

The Enlightenment bought with it a powerful struggle, as scientists who had stepped out of the fold, so to speak, were making discoveries right and left that didn't fit into the worldview espoused by the church. Ultimately, the "the church's back was broken" both by the scientists and philosophers and by the Reformation. There came a time when the church was forced into a divvying up of responsibility. Henceforth, the church was to deal with matters of the soul, while science was given the rest of the human and natural world as its domain.

With this breaking came the idea that a vocation or a calling might exist outside of a "churchly" one. What has never changed, and rightly so in my view, is the idea that a calling is a calling to service. Therefore, one might have a calling to teach, or counsel, or to be a doctor. One might have a calling to the Arts. One might have a calling to improve the lot of humanity through innovation or through business.

A way to differentiate a calling from a job might be to ask, "What is the purpose of this venture?" If the answer is "to make money," one might ask, "for whom?" If the answer is, "To enrich myself and the stock-holders," one might question the "vocational" nature of such a venture. If the answer is, "To provide a service or product that others can choose to use to their benefit," we might be looking at a vocation.

To look at this from a slightly different angle, I remember a story my old buddy Dharmen used to tell - a story he learned from Osho. It concerned the Buddha, who achieved enlightenment sitting under the Bodhi tree. Off he went, up the path to Nirvana. As he reached the top of the mountain, he saw all of humanity below him, struggling to understand. He was moved to great compassion, and turned back.

Now, what he didn't do was to force people to "get it." He sat back down and started telling stories and teaching "the truth" as he knew it. In a sense, like we noted last week, he said to people, "follow me." His calling, then, was not "to force people to get it." His calling was to speak his truth and to remember that his enlightenment came through his own work, not through the work of another. In other words, all he could do is "say it and live it." What others chose to do with what he said was absolutely and only up to them.

Often, people feel a calling to this sort of vocation. They get a piece of something, and they want to sell it (literally or figuratively) to others. I was doing a session with a client yesterday, who described exactly this. Often friends come to her for advice, and she has a fair perception into the drama of others. So, with permission, she offers a view of what might be going on. All well and good. Then, with a sigh, she said, "And I frustrate myself that they just don't get it and they keep doing the same dumb stuff. I just want to shake them and make them get it!"

I laughed and acknowledged that this something all "therapists" have to get past. (hint- many don't.) No matter how wise you are, no matter how eloquent, all you can do is say it - put it out there. The calling is to be clear and honest and open and vulnerable. What happens next is the responsibility of the hearer. If it were any other way, we would be destroying the idea of free will and personal responsibility.

Another way to put it: never, in the history of humanity,
has someone "gotten it" because someone else
gave it to them. Not once.

So, how does all of this fit into calling and the majority's resistance to it? I think the resistance comes with the sense that, once one accepts the calling, there is no turning back. Well, that's not entirely accurate, as we still have free will. One can "drop" one's calling and turn one's back and walk away. In my experience, most who quit find that whatever is left of their life is a black hole.

I think our instinct re. the seriousness of a calling is accurate. One surrenders one's self to the calling. I chose those words carefully. One's self, one's egoic identity (in my case, my "Wayne-ness") needs to go far into the background. If it does not, I might choose to use what I am called to do, for example, to get people to notice me. "See how special I am! Boy, have I got all of this figured out! Don't you just love me?" Interesting trip, this. Of course, as should be obvious, if we go back to our question, "What is the purpose of this venture?" and if I am honest, such an approach could only have one purpose - to be seen as a guru or whatever. If this is the purpose, then I would need to stop indicating I'm acting vocationally.

Because of the strength of our egos, it's hard to imagine a life where the point is "everyone but me." I don't mean this in a martyr or victim sense. I mean that the vocational focus is always outward. As I suggested in the Buddha example, he sat down and taught. If two listened, great. If 2,000 listened, great. If no one listened, great. And I would suggest that the inward feeling of this (at least for me) is like a deep breath, in and out. No rush, no high, no low, no drama. Just fullness and emptiness in the act of giving freely, no strings attached.

Is it possible to be there all the time? My experience tells me that the answer is a resounding "no!" I lose my focus regularly, and slide into my whiny little boy voice - "What about me????" Snivel. Sob. And if I allow myself to stay there, looking around for rescue, for attention, for someone to come along and make it all better, I simply drift deeper and deeper into sadness. So, I find myself coming beck to myself, and talking and sharing and being intensely curious about what happens next.

In short, choosing to honour your calling does not exempt you from the drama. It escalates the drama. All of a sudden there are tons of distractions and opportunities to torture yourself. So, why would one ever do it?

Because my sense is that life is grey and meaningless and directionless without surrendering to a calling. As Thoreau wrote: "Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them." I suspect a refusal to accept one's calling is the major reason for this.

Do what you are called to do. If you are a carpenter, make elegant use of the wood. If you paint, free your paintings to teach and inspire. If you write, be clear and elegant. If you counsel, speak your truth and let the words go. In all your relating, be open and honest and vulnerable.

Because as the Borg say, "Resistance is futile." Either walk today and die tomorrow, or die today and never walk

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