Vocation and Courage

Photo of a one-quarter life-size partial female figure in bronze with an exposed interior structure by Blake Ward Blake Sculpture

Picasso once said: “One must have the courage of one’s vocation and the courage to make a living from one’s vocation” [1]

While this sounds like great advice, how do we really know what our vocation is?

How can we be true to ourselves and really know what it is that we are meant to do?

As we try to find our purpose, the landscape is obscured by the set of rules handed down.

According to Parker J. Palmer, “There may be moments in life when we are so unformed that we need to use values like an exoskeleton to keep us from collapsing.” [2]

We need this exoskeleton,in the same way that our sculptures do when they are still in the wax.

Without it, they too would collapse on the way to the foundry.

Still, this foundation of standards with which we build our identity often means living someone else’s life and can cause us great damage.

Often we believe that listening to the words of wisdom from the outside world will lead us toward our true selves.

Those great forces of virtue will save us from our selves. But will they really?

“We listen for guidance everywhere except from within”. [3]

Wouldn’t it be better to listen to our inner voice?

Why must one’s vocation be a goal to be pursued?

That would be, in Palmer’s words: ‘violence in the name of vision’.

Following a checklist provided by society will never ring true and sincere.  We should not live by the standards that are imposed on us but by the standards that we cannot help but live by.

The calling from our inner world, the act of trusting and the courage to embrace, for better or for worse, who we really are, our identity.  Only this can lead us to our deepest and truest vocation.

After all, is it not our own life that we must live?

Are we that inadequate at living our own lives?

Where is the vortex between who we are and who we should be?

So we spend half our lives masking ourselves with the faces of others, building an acceptable exoskeleton, only to find that we were in there all along.

All we had to do was be confident in our strengths and in our weaknesses and be proud of it all, the whole package.

Authentic vocation is at the core of our inner self. It isn’t something to achieve but a gift that we always had. As Palmer puts it:

“Vocation does not come from a voice “out there” calling me to become something I am not. It comes from a voice “in here” calling me to be the person I was born to be.” [4]

Written by Boky Hackel