Vocatio: Gladness and Hunger
So, we have not delved into the etymological well for some time, being busy with lots of good reader comments to the blog and questions! Thanks for those, and more are always welcome!
I’m a quote junkie, and the quote I summon up more than any other is one by Frederick Buechner. It’s culled from his tiny tome Wishful Thinking: A Theological ABC. While the whole book is valuable, the gem of all gems is under “V.”
Now, vocation comes from the Latin word vocatio, meaning ‘a calling,’ which itself comes from the Latin word vocare, meaning ‘voice.’ Think also ‘vocal.’
Even other languages make the connection between calling and vocation. The German word Beruf means ‘vocation’ and comes from the German root verb rufen, namely ‘to call.’
But if somebody is in a vocation, a calling, then somebody has to be doing the calling, strictly speaking.
So one’s vocation depends upon the voice to which one hearkens.
There are a lot of voices to which we can incline our ears, right? In fact, another cool etymological trip takes us to ‘cacophony,’ which comes from two Greek words: kakos, meaning ‘bad,’ or ‘evil,’ and phone, you got it, ‘voice.’
We often have a cacophony surrounding us, and it is indeed hard, at times, to know which voice we ought to trust.
I think it helps, then, to be reminded of the notion of vocation (which is different, by the way, than a ‘job,’ which, by the way, probably comes from an Old English word gobbe, meaning ‘mass,’ or ‘lump.’ That’s not so very appealing). One’s vocation is that to which someone calls us.
So back to Buechner.
He hopes that people listen to God’s voice, above all voices. And then he says this: The place to which God calls you is “where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”
Hah! Isn’t that goosebumpy good?
I love that!
The place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.
“Deep gladness.” I think it’s a notion that is not as simple as one might initially assume. Gladness, and deep gladness at that, is gladness which sustains us, offers peace, shapes our identity. It’s beyond that which pays the bills. It is not an a-vocation, a hobby. It not only buoys our spirits…one could argue that it is our spirit.
And “deep hunger.” Oh, is there hunger in the world! Hunger for food in bellies, hunger for compassion, hunger for fine music, hunger for breathtaking art, hunger for love, hunger for hope.
But both of these ideas, gladness and hunger, are implicitly defined by the one whom we name God. So different gods define gladness and hunger differently.
It seems obvious, but it is worth pausing to consider whether that which we identify with gladness and hunger identify also with the agenda of the one or that which we name as God.
What appears as simple, then, is actually a tricky stunner: In order to figure out one’s vocation, one has only to 1) figure out who or what one’s god is; 2) find some measure of joy that is consistent with this god; and 2) share it to make the world a better place.
One more thing: One need not have only one vocation, and one need not have the same vocation all one’s life.
Hmmm. Where might that leave a person?