Palmer refers to vocation not “as a goal to be achieved”, but as a “gift to be received”. It is about understanding the selfhood given to us by God at birth. Palmer refers to Rabbi Zusya, who as an old man said “In the coming world, they will not ask: ‘Why were you not Moses?’ They will ask me: ‘Why were you not Zusya?'”
As we grow we are trained into acceptability and finish up “wearing other people’s faces”. The deepest vocational question becomes not “what ought I to do with my life?” but “who am I? What is my nature?” The misunderstanding of vocation arises around the confusion between doing and being. Dave Walker’s cartoon on the hierarchy of vocation illustrates (and mocks) the “doing” – though unfortunately that remains the pre-occupation (a good word for this context!).
Palmer highlights the definition of vocation by Frederick Buechner. He describes vocation as “the place where your deep gladness meets with the world’s deep need.” When vocation is just masquerading as that great damage is caused. Another quote – this time from Rumi: “If you are here unfaithfully with us you’re causing terrible damage.”
Now I become myself.
It’s taken time, many years and places.
I have been dissolved and shaken,
Worn other people’s faces …
Now I become myself by May Sarton from Collected Poems