“Figuring out what to do with your life isn’t just about self-examination — it’s about examination of the world you live in. Theologian Frederick Buechner puts it this way: ‘Your vocation is where your greatest passion meets the world’s greatest need.’ It takes a conscious act of imagining beyond what you see, connecting what you read and what you understand about the world to the actual life you lead.”
~ Making Good by Billy Parish and Dev Aujla
I started reading Making Good yesterday and I am inspired by the authors’ wisdom, insight, and conviction regarding finding meaning, money, and community in a changing world. Although I have yet to finish the book, what I have read so far regarding their journeys of seeking meaningful work resonated with me although I am twenty years older than at least one of the authors!
I realize that age does not matter in the quest of finding meaning, money, and community in life. In addition, I sense that this quest is not novel; throughout human history, numerous people of various cultures, geography, and nations have sought and found the sweet spot where these three currents — meaning, money, community — merged.
As for me, two things about the above excerpt stood out when I read it.
First, if one’s vocation is where one’s greatest passion meets the world’s greatest need, then how are we preparing our children to discover their vocation? “Vocation” is commonly defined as “a particular occupation, business, or profession; calling.” Ultimately, isn’t education about helping our children discover the vocation through which they, as adults, can become a contributing member of our society?
Yet, many parents either directly or indirectly pressure their children to take up a particular occupation, business or profession. Even thirty years ago when I was in college, many of my classmates who majored in English Literature, as did I, often commiserated about phone calls from their fathers who often asked: “If you aren’t interested in going to law school, what are you going to do with your B.A. in English Literature?”
Then there is also that thing called, “passion.” As for me, I grew up under the notion that passion is dangerous, untrustworthy, and unpredictable; therefore, it is to be avoided at all costs. I was told in no uncertain terms to trust my head, not my heart, because the head is logical, rational, and smart, whereas the heart is illogical, irrational, and irresponsible. It took me more than three decades of my own life experiences to learn that I need both my head and my heart. Moreover, my heart is the one to be trusted because it does not rationalize or justify the way my head does sometimes to get me to choose what is convenient and expedient over what is right and true for me.
In addition, the education I went through did not support, encourage, or allow time for me to discover and pursue my passion. My schooling was not about passion; it focused on drilling, regurgitating, conforming, and “coloring within the lines,” along with all the other kids in my class — except when testing time came around, at which point all of us were tested against one another.
Nothing kills passion like being told and prescribed what, when, where, and how, to do even the things you love to do! I would have said, “That was then, but this is now” and be done with it. Sadly, our educational system has not changed much since my childhood although our world has changed significantly — as exhibited in the information technology sector alone, which was close to non-existent when I was my daughters’ age!
If one side of the vocation equation calls for the greatest passion, how are we helping (and how can we help) our children cultivate and protect their passion as if it were their most treasured possession in this changing world? Perhaps their greatest passion is more practical and useful in finding their true vocation than any educational degree, certificate, or training we can pay (or buy) for them. How can we change or create an educational system (whether private or public), tools, aids, and profession that will support and encourage our children to discover and pursue their greatest passion?
Another factor in the vocation equation is the world’s greatest need. It sounds overwhelming when we consider what might be the world’s greatest need; however, as in the words of these authors: “It takes a conscious act of imagining beyond what you see, connecting what you read and what you understand about the world to the actual life you lead.” Again, reflecting on my own adolescence, I think my school days were too filled with school work and academic endeavors to meet external achievements and expectations that I failed to perform the conscious act of imagining beyond what I saw, or of connecting what I read and what I understood about the world to the actual life I led.
Looking back, I recognize how narrow my adolescent life was because of my tunnel vision — the tunnel vision which I adopted in order to survive in an educational system which viewed and treated me as a cog in the machine! There was not much connection between what I was learning in school and my real life, yet at the same time, I felt comfortable in the abstract world of books — the book world where nothing had real consequences in the actual life I led. I did not make the link between school and life (outside school), nor was I forced to make it by life circumstances. So, this disconnected life continued through college and law school. In some ways, I don’t think I was ever able to connect the two — what I read and what I understood about the world versus the actual life I led — in my work either as a lawyer or a corporate employee.
Unlike the young and wise entrepreneurial authors of Making Good, it took me many more years to reach the conscious act of imagining beyond what I saw. Only within the last six months have I truly been able to connect what I read and what I understand about the world to the actual life I lead. Moreover, I realize what a gift it would be to my daughters if Charles and I could help them to connect what they understand about the world to the actual life they lead.
So I asked myself: “How do I provide a learning environment at home and outside for S and J to perform the conscious act of imagining beyond what they see, and connecting what they read and what they understand about the world to the actual life they lead ?”
No sooner than I raised this question, than I heard the answer from within:
“S and J already know how to imagine beyond what they see. They came to this life already knowing how to connect what they read and what they understand about the world to the actual life they lead. Your job as a parent is to honor them as they are, respect their unique gifts, and step aside, so that their greatest passion can flow where it will to meet the world’s greatest need.”
May all of our children find their true vocation where their greatest passion meets the world’s greatest need for their own sake and the ONE world we live in!