Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Maybe wisdom is found when we realize that regardless of how independent we become, we still need others.

A Modern Tragedy

I see college students all around me asking the same question over four (+) years. It is the question of career and calling. Many come to college (like myself) to get clarity and direction. Many leave searching for that same clarity and direction (like myself). They are spending money and time in search of a career that will call out to them, saying, "I'm important! Devote your time, energy, and life to me!" But, in our industrial and informational economy, most careers do not have that sort of voice, but instead call out "Comfort, suburbia, and 'disposable' income!" even at the expense of pleasure from work or working close to where you live or coming anywhere close to any reasonable vision of the good life. The tragedy is the disconnection to people or place.

Professions, of course, have their place. We must have great training in various ways of work, etc. (whether or not they all, or even most, need a college degree is another point altogether) but without some sort of higher allegiance to human things the professions are essentially rootless, which is to say, mercenary. Luther called this sort of wandering the "masterless men" and not in a good way.

The various professions, which seem to expand every year, used to be rooted in community. If a community needed a pastor, or a lawyer, or a doctor, then a young person would take up the call, receive education, and return to the community older, wiser, and able to take up the calling. Now, for various reasons, the community needs are not met, much less even considered. This is not to say, though, that the community one is raised in is the community one is called to. But it is to say that the concept of 'calling' is properly located with people and places and only secondarily to profession. Where the call is to, or to whom it is, is the most important thing to determine--from there an adequate sense of what must be done to serve these two can much more easily come into focus.

I have a friend, a good friend, who embodies this. He and his family are called to the formal ministry because of their calling to serve the people of God and their home in Vermont. Currently they reside here in Beaver Falls, but always with an eye towards whom and where their calling comes from. I have often wished that their place of calling would be here in Beaver Falls, but I am not the one to determine that. However, their sense of whom and where gives drive and passion to what they are doing. I know, when I felt called to the ministry (many moons ago), that I quickly dried up under the pressure of having a 'calling' and no people or place. Now that I am working in community building I have a much clearer sense of what I am supposed to do. My role in my church (dare I say parish?) has expanded much more as of late, especially since the opening of BFC&T. My role at the shop has expanded as we try to improve the life of our community through it. Without the people here or this place, though, our shop would be reduced to the marketing-heavy, soulless coffeeshops that litter our strip malls and highways.

People and place, that is to say 'community', are necessary for human flourishing and shalom. Without them, the root dries and wandering commences. Bedouin societies aside (for they are a different category altogether), wandering is not a good thing. It may be necessary for a short while, but our society (and religion, unfortunately) have made wandering the rule, not the exception. Rootless plants cannot survive long and neither can rootless people.