Friday, March 06, 2009

What is Vocation?

I love this quote, from Po Bronson's "What Should I Do with My Life, Now?":

"There's an old parable about the three bricklayers. They're laying bricks all morning, and when they finally get a break, one guy asks the other two, "Why are you doing this job?" The first guy says, "I'm doing it for the wages." The second guy says, "I'm doing it for my wife and kids." The third guy looks up at what they've been constructing all morning, which is a church -- a place to get in touch with one's highest self -- and says, "I'm helping to build a cathedral." Now, most people hear this parable, and they think the third guy has the right answer, and the first two guys have the wrong answer. That's the simplistic lesson that most people jump to, led their by their mythic notions of calling. But that is not the lesson of the parable. In fact, all three men have a sense of purpose -- have a "cathedral," if you will. The first guy has the Cathedral of Spirituality. Good for him. But the second guy has his too. The Cathedral of Family. And the third guy has the Cathedral of Self-sufficiency. Those are all good purposes. Those are all right answers. The real lesson of the parable is, notice what no man answered. Not one of the three said, "I just love laying bricks." Doing something for the sheer love of it is not what real people mean when they say their work provides a sense of purpose. That is not how they construct a sense of meaning and rightness. Looking for it, in that form, is incredibly illusory."