Lent (Day 17) — “I Awoke”

Continuing to read and meditate through James Martin, SJ, Between Heaven and Mirth — now Chapter 4, “I Awoke: How Vocation, Service and Love Can Lead to Joy”

In this chapter, Martin notes that joy is not simply something that happens, though there is some truth to joy happening or surprising us (but partly that’s because we are ready to notice that surprising event, which only happens because we’ve made some effort to be “ready”).  In the first part of the chapter he discusses “vocation.”  Many see “vocation” as something related only to the ministry or priesthood, but Martin suggests that everyone is called in some way — to be a teacher or a doctor or something else, or to be a good friend, or a good spouse.  That those are our paths to help enact God in the world, and of our following God’s goal for us to be the best person we can be.  

For someone without the Judaeo-Christian background, one might see this as being one with the Universe, or somehow being in tune.  And when we are in tune, when we are “in the groove,” we do experience a sense of joy — we are doing what we should be doing, no matter how difficult.  Doing what we should do might be exhausting, but it leaves us with a sense of joy — that we’re in the right place at the right time, doing the right thing.  

I’ve known several people who took some job to get by, or to make money, but were generally miserable.  They were not living authentic lives.  Some, though, did find some authentic outlet in non-work activities.  And, to the extent that they could give energy into that authentic outlet, they felt pretty good about their lives.  

But I wonder — isn’t it possible that someone like the Koch Brothers, or Dick Armey, or Dick Cheney, or Richard Nixon, or even Joseph Stalin, felt that they were doing their great work?  And that they enjoyed what the did, and took great joy from it?  Of course, one might point out that some of them doing what was joyful to them resulted in pain for certain individuals.  And that pain had to be overlooked for these individuals to continue in their path — in other words, they took some joy, but had to lose part of themselves to ignore the pain of others.  Even for people going down dark paths, there must be some sense of joy.  But, that joy or delight, coming at the expense of others, must be false at some level.  

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