Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Calling’ Category

“To realize a person’s destiny is a person’s only real obligation… And when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”

Melchizedek, the King of Salem, from the novel, The Alchemist

 

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”—Matthew 6:21

 

I recently finished rereading a book that has become a much loved favorite since introduced to it several years ago.

Paulo Coehlo’s The Alchemist is described as “a magical fable about following your dream.” A journey story—it involves adventure, danger, and romance. Traveling to exotic new lands, and finding treasure. And it’s also about knowing and living one’s destiny… Big stuff.

So with a new year upon us, I’m guessing some of you, like me, have thought about what you might like to do this year. Maybe it’s to break a bad habit. Or maybe it’s to take up a good one. But whether it’s simple changes or radical overhaul, you’ve likely given some thought to who you want to be.

I was introduced to the magic of this story in a season of my life when I was looking to find my own destiny. In November of ’02 a guy at REI in Colorado Springs learned I was about to take a year’s sabbatical backpacking around the world. He enthusiastically asked me if I’d ever read The Alchemist, then scrawled the title on a piece of paper for me to remember before we parted ways. “Huh,” I thought, as I tucked it away.

A few months later, I was enjoying a meal at my accommodation on Fraser Island, off the coast of Queensland, Australia. A Dutch woman and I were sharing something of our stories with each other: she, of how at great cost had broken out of the traditions and expectations of the world she was born into in order to find who she was, and me, with some degree of resonance, undertaking my present journey. Somewhere in the conversation, she asked me if I’d ever read The Alchemist.

“Huh. There goes that name again,” recalling the conversation in November.

Not long afterwards in June 2003, finding myself about to take off on a journey within a journey—a 12 hour long ride into Cambodia—I stepped into the Shaman Bookstore in Bangkok to pick up some decent reading for the trip, and found a copy of Coehlo’s classic tale.

It was a case of “Follow the omens”—a phrase used often in the book as its main character, Santiago, is presented with a series of circumstances that aren’t easy to write off as mere happenstance. And with each unfolding moment, as Santiago’s curiosity is piqued—sometimes with great satisfaction, and other times with fear or much annoyance—he is continually invited into a series of events and choices that offer to change his life forever.

Traditionally, alchemy was an art devoted to finding ways to transform common substances into things of great value, such as turning lead into gold. All of us can relate to wanting a treasure of some sort, whether something we work diligently for, or that which we hope to stumble upon one day. Some may seem modest, and others larger than life, even quite noble. But invariably, many if not most of these experiences seem to come down to our getting caught up in finding treasure in some object, fantasy, or experience external to ourselves.

There may not be anything necessarily wrong with some of these pursuits. But what we often don’t realize is the gold that lies within us, as the dross in our lives has a way of making the common seem nothing special. It’s worth noting that alchemists were not given to some fly-by-night scheme for quick riches; they were moreover committed to a process—for life.

Likewise, everyone has a destiny—one which doesn’t always come by way of the spectacular episode—but is more often lived into via a moment-by-moment process, as soulmaking is the work of a lifetime.

So what are your dreams for 2011? And what do they really say about who you are and who you’re called to be? Maybe some of these desires are not worthy of who you really are and need to be laid aside for now, whereas some which you or others may have written off as silly may speak most truthfully to who you are.

So as you give thought to what you may like to see in 2011, a good place to start may be to ask yourself what your true desires are, and then paying attention to the omens in your life.

Like my dad says, “No one ever said it was going to be easy.” But the next step in your path is always there when you are ready to heed your omens.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

A Brief Meditation

I will find myself here…

When I write.

 

To write is to live.

For me, to live is to write.

 

It may not always be literal construction of words.

Writing is moreover a courageous act of being—

Of entering into the world to express oneself anew.

Daring to risk disclosure.

Challenging of norms and status quo.

And the risk to be wrong now and again.

Very wrong, even foolish.

 

But it is still an act of love, one that despite words ill or good,

is profitable to writer and reader alike,

and to that ongoing reciprocal relationship.

And to the continual remaking of this Self—

Writer as Reader of Self as much as

Writer of Self—as Self shows up.

 

Becoming.

That is the call.

Others say it far better. More deeply. Truly.

But it’s the same—All things are one—

And this is my Holy Task.

Read Full Post »

“For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven.”

– Ecclesiastes

This week, a new chapter has begun for me as I started a new job.

Now in this economy, this is certainly good news for anyone. But it’s much more than this for me.

Eight years ago this month, I walked away from the stability of a job and way of life that while good in many ways, in other ways had also become tired and stale, and badly in need of some renovation. Now for some, such talk may sound the onset of a midlife crisis. But in this case, rather than running from something, I felt I was running to something—a chance to get my life back. And the previous year had made clear to me I was to do so by leaving behind all that I knew for a season of rest and soul recovery off the grid.

So selling all my furniture, I moved out of the nice home I owned then in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, and embarked on what would be a one-year traveling sabbatical around the world.

The day I left November snows were blowing, the kind that were readying the high country for the beginning of ski season in just over a week. Two days later, I awoke in my hotel room to the sounds and smells of paradise, on an island deep in the heart of the South Pacific. And so a new journey had begun.

Just like the experience of my sabbatical was for me, we all have a need for rest. But I’m talking about more than mere vacation, or taking time to relax on the weekend. No; what I’m thinking of has more to do with the idea of a season or space in our lives that is spacious and abundant. Where everything seems to fit together in such a way that deep inside you know things are as they were meant to be. Everything is as it needs to be. And you hope that it never ends.

It finds its expression in the old Hebrew word shalom. Yet, as much as we were made for something like this, and need it, it seems to be the case that it is not something that we can easily arrange for, but rather something that we are brought into now and again—as life also has a way of doling out times and seasons that seem to care not whether a sense of shalom is part of the equation.

My year brought forth shalom in ways that have changed me forever. Looking back, it’s almost hard to believe sometimes. Not just the things that I was doing and what I was experiencing during this year. But the way in which it came together, as there is story upon story of one door after another opening to make this thing happen, and much of it without trying very hard.

And then there have been the seven years since, which have largely been anything but this. Very difficult in many ways, where conversely to the time leading up to and during my sabbatical, there is a lot that did not come together as I would have hoped, even when making what I thought were the next right steps. By and large, it has been a season spent outside of shalom.

In saying this, I don’t want to say that these last few years have been without meaning or significance. Far from it. For one thing, during the sabbatical, I realized that I am an artist, and I have remained committed to living out of that ethos, even if not always so well, in the time since, putting my values into action.

And just as light and hope came to restore me during a golden season, periods of darkness in the time since have helped to refine what began in that journey. I bring two snapshots from this interim period which capture this.

From a blog entry, November 2006:

I tell myself often as I’m about to arise from my bed, when finally disrupting those few moments of waking pensiveness leading up to that choice, “Get back on your horse and ride, B.” I say this to myself in a spirit of compassion, because many days I feel that the cost to living in a way that seeks to connect my inner life to my outer life seems too much to bear. Lives lived as journeys are often cases of love in a dangerous time, or life on the run, much in the way that the fugitive David fled from the murderous Saul in the years that would eventually open to a triumphal entry into Jerusalem as king. “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head” (Luke 9:58, NIV).

The only thing that keeps me going some days is a defiant choice to be creative—even if in small ways—to honor my inner architecture… And when I do this, I get a temporary resuscitation of heart. “From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it” (Matthew 11:12, NIV). This is no mission for pew-sitters or preaching-to-the-choir types. It is the call to be a “living sacrifice,” not according “to the pattern of this world,” but in a true “spiritual act of worship” (Romans 12: 1-2, NIV). The dangerous life of a pilgrim radical.

From a July 2009 journal entry:

I am different. Feel different. Changed. Defiant—but not some punk-ass sniveling cause. More like “furious indifference”—released unto my true strength—even if I soon slip back into some sort of amnesia. A strength that curiously enough—it seems I had to go to hell and back before I found it, knocking on death’s door, alone in a big cold city where I knew few people… But more curiously still, it is the place that God found me—and I found myself—through “the darkness that introduces a man to himself.” Alone but not lonely… And grateful.

* * *

I intentionally stepped away for a season. I followed this by a return to grad school, exiting right as this recession we’ve been weathering began. So much of what I’ve wanted to do has not been possible for more than short doses, if at all, due to the fact that like many, I have found my wings clipped. And my recession began well before this, because face it, almost everyone’s living tight when they’re in school.

So fast forward to the present. After a long, long period of undulating unemployment or underemployment, and then precious few promising opportunities coming my way, just over three weeks ago, I simultaneously had four promising job opportunities come my way, and all of them connected to core passions and long-term vision. And as I begin one of those positions this week, I’m a bit floored to see how things are beginning to come together again, not just for the needed provision of the job itself, but how I see it setting me up for success in other areas.

When God rains, He pours.

There’s just something sweet about a taste of redemption and freedom that is made all the more so in proportion to the struggle and suffering we experience on the road to get there.

Shalom, Y’all.

The Best Scene from One of the Greatest Films Ever

Read Full Post »

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

– Hebrews 11:1

The other night I received a call from an old friend whom I’d not talked with in a couple of years. Over the course of the next hour, we played cross country catch up on the intervening period since our paths last crossed.

Then Josh, my friend, asked me a question that caught me off guard: “Are you still doing anything with film?”

Two summers ago, not long before the last time we’d spoken, I’d flown out to Los Angeles to study for a few weeks under a modestly successful filmmaker there who was offering takers the chance to make their own short films while soaking up an industry insider’s perspective, and for dirt cheap. People from all walks of life showed up: some already working in the industry; others wanting to break in; some already enrolled in good film schools; and even one socially active senior who wanted to raise awareness on a neglected population living within his community by making a documentary.

The philosophy of our instructor: “Just do it.” Start making film, as nowadays you shouldn’t have to go to an expensive film school in order to enter the industry and do good work.

A few years earlier, I couldn’t have imagined such a wild lark. And even when going, the idea of the LA Dream Factory was not all that appealing to me. On paper, as a recent graduate from a counseling program, it almost didn’t make sense. Yet having time in my schedule as I was unemployed, and offered an invitation that spoke to something deep inside, I headed to LA.

But to my friend’s question—with the brief exception of beginning a screenplay turned novel last year—I answered with a quiet “No.” That that part of my life is on the shelf for now.

On one hand, it wasn’t easy to hear Josh’s words because they elicited an ache. An ache underscored by feeling called to live a certain way over the last eight-plus years which for the most part has been hard and had relatively few outward signs of success, where there have been many brick walls, disappointments, distractions, and temptations while seeking to honor this sense of call.

But this isn’t a story about film; it’s a story about desire. And being invited into my story by a friend who knows me—who sees me, and gets me—was a great kindness. Though recognizing my difficulty, Josh was glad that I have not deadened myself to desire. That I still live with it.

As I put it to him, I’m at a place in my life where there are certain things that I have no other possible way to reckon them now but by faith. They just seem too impossible, and out of reach. Foolish.

To live by faith is to live with the ache of desire. It is the calling to live as an artist—seeing into being those things which do not yet exist, carried by what William Blake called a “firm persuasion.”

When drawn into territory where there are no clear road maps, can you be a fool? Will you be a fool?

I’ve often been tempted to be too practical for my own good, and at some of the worst possible times. But due to the apparent foolishness I’ve succumbed to in recent years, why begin now?

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: