On the Sunday Mass before Ash Wednesday, the priest, who's been at it twenty years, speaks of the two, and there are only two, vocations, that of priesthood, and that of marriage. Two vows there are. In this, the Catholic world view.
The next day, I reflect for my therapist. There are two vocations. Two callings. Two great discoveries, of what our talents are, of what God gives us, wants us to do. "And there was that clear calling. I was called to marriage, to be her husband, to love her, to put up with her, to do anything for her, to take the vow, 'til death do us part.' And I, my fault, I messed it all up. Again and again. Got distracted. Friends. Even as much as I tried to protect myself from outside influences."
And today I wake up, realizing the truth of all that, as every morning, some small part of the string of the mistakes plays through my waking mind, some opportunity, handed to me from God, gets misused in an almost classic fashion.
"And that's the tale of my life, doc. The last twenty eight, thirty years or so. And writing a book about it, that doesn't seem to me to be God's calling, but a substitute, one that doesn't really do it." I took a sip from my plastic water cup, looking down into it. "I've not done much in those years. Tried to be a good son, a good friend, tried to have a social life, but in an erroneous fashion, that of working the bar part of a restaurant... I'm not even in the right town. I've been a sleep-walker through life. Self-medicated...
"You miss your calling. It's plain to see, it's right in front of you. But you make all the mistakes of a young fool. And all the career stuff, it all comes out of the calling, comes about because of it, gives you a reason to do something. Gives you a language in which to speak. Gives you a soundtrack, music to work by, and then, with that love and support, things happen; you move forward. But if you are so obsessed on finding a calling that you miss the calling, the clear beckon to the vocation that you hear without even knowing much about it but that it works for you, then what?
"Well, life's not going to be a lot of fun. There's Buddhism, a self-negation, trying to make it all not mean as much to you as it does organically... There's yoga... There's Chekhov stories... But then, naked and unhappy, I guess the only thing left is found in Luke's Gospel. The Beatitudes. Happy are the meek and the mournful, for they shall have their reward in Heaven... Well, that's quite a statement.
"Where does one find satisfaction? A balm for such pains... At least Jesus is honest. There are such people. They are the ones who better hear of the love of God? They appreciate it more because their life ain't so hot?
"Trying to find a calling, I missed mine. I missed a whole life.
"But Jesus says it with such certainty. There's something to it. There has to be....
"Does it come down to the fact that we are sensitive creatures, more than we would want to be? That our pains and joys are more than we would anticipate?
"Are sorrows a talent some of us simply have...
But the doctors, of literature and scholarship, at Amherst, they did as much to not be as sensitive to my calling as anyone. They saw, or could have seen, how much I put into writing a paper... Did they see my search for a mythical language, or that this search is what a writer is about? I tried to make that final point over Hemingway and The Old Man and the Sea, but it was one bad grade after another, after the good start and the calling came...
The doctors are the ones who are supposed to help you, but instead they say, why do you cure on the sabbath, i.e., late, why was your paper on Paradise Lost late, here's another shitty grade (after we ourselves have awakened your mind to the great calling, as if we were now some sort of unspeaking cabal who have to control it, lest we lose what we, royally, have... control, jobs, tenure, respect... Like my dad, my old man, said, rank opportunists. That's what he said.
No wonder Jesus got angry with them. Youthful son of the scholar, Joseph (often mistranslated as carpenter...)
Should have kissed their asses, old boy..
I mean, yeah, doc, why wouldn't he have wanted to hang out with fisherman, bureaucrats, crazy customers, restaurant people, chefs... The Pharisees would have made him sick to his stomach, and they in turn would simply have thought of him as a sort of undergrad of excesses, hard to understand by their own codified language and procedures...
You know, try to keep a sense of humor about it all..
You're right, a little bit of yoga, walk to work, meditate to clear the mind, that's all, then you're good..
Yes, so you miss your calling... You fall into your own Tale of Two Cities kind of a story, ill, injured, in need of being nursed back to health... But at least then you know what the problem is. It was a great calling, and you took it seriously. Maybe so much that you messed it up. (Dostoevsky wrote "Love in action is a harsh and dreadful thing compared to love in dreams.") The calling was enmeshed in the other callings. Like Ted Hughes is called to write about his love for his wife, God rest their souls... And yes, we can see how imperfect we are, how poverty stricken, how far blown off course, but if we dwell just on that, then again we are missing that chance to live out the Godly potential that comes to us on Easter morn.
Does time matter, thirty years passed, does that matter anymore? You love, you love. No one is perfect. In fact, quite the opposite, terribly so. Love and the circumstances we are in makes for a kind of walled prison we all must try to reach out of. Isn't that terrible. And so it is that it is impossible, completely impossible, by the rules of this life, with the great exception of God's love, which in turn shapes our own love and the humble realistic possibilities of it, at the feet of which we are all sinful and fallen.
That's what I think, and that's what I've found, and yes, it is terrible, a terrible beauty the likes of which we can barely look at directly. Maybe this too is what the Beatitudes refer to, the circumstances in which we, meek, mournful, poor, humbled, can offer our love for another. Do we have a choice or any power over such an all-encompassing monumental truth such as we have no powers against such. Just as easily could we fight time itself, aging, death...
And so all the little insults of life, they carry great sting, because it's already nearly impossible that we would be able to take the love we have in our hearts and make anything of it. Our love is writ on a poet's tombstone, or in the Psalm of some choir of the kind of religiosity we would like to emulate ourselves somehow, if we only knew how. That love is the most fragile thing, as far as actualizing it, but strangely, one can guess that this property is tied into how enduring, permanent, strong, like the ocean is present, love might actually be. A little bit shines out from time to time.
Who can control such a thing? Who could make it manifest, but by, as logic might hold, some great test, of time, of loss, of distance, of space, all the known properties of the universe. The realm of The Winter's Tale, poet, playwright... Perhaps that the beings carrying it would initially fail somehow in connecting steadfastly could only speak of the truth of it. For which we no longer need to be so heavily sad about it in our right minds....
The sun sets, it becomes, night, winter, but the sun also riseth. So maybe there is, in honesty, some form of hope out there. Not that we would know it.
Then can shame turn out into some form of pride, maybe... And sins would cease, seen differently, by the act of words, words of a fallible creature trying to figure out the nature of reality, without ever knowing a final answer.
So is there rejection in the world, and strife. Because of the deep seriousness of it all. And a calling within a calling within a calling.
A book within a book within a book. Within meaning, deeper meaning.
Love that which is lovable in people...