I have worked in vocation work for nearly a decade. I have heard many definitions of what vocation means, a holy calling, answering a holy longing, “where our great gladness meets the world’s greatest needs,” that one call leads to another and to another. While all this holds true, I stumbled upon a definition I have never entertained before found in the book I am reading, Broken Open by Elizabeth Lesser who references the wise and gracious Joseph Campbell, who I have delighted in reading since graduate school but never did my eyes read this vantage point on vocation which he shares.
Lesser writes: “Joseph Campbell spent more than half of a century mining the wisdom repositories of religion, myth, and art. At the end of Campbell’s long career, when Bill Moyers asked him about the meaning of life, Campbell surprised Moyers by saying that it isn’t meaning people have been seeking down through the ages but something he called the ‘rapture of being alive.’…Campbell affirmed that each human being–whether from ancient Greece, or tribal Africa, or modern America–is not really hankering for a special vocation or an Earth saving mission or some scholarly understanding of enlightenment. Rather, what we want are vibrant, full-bodied experiences of being alive. And if a desire to serve humanity or to find God comes from a rapturous engagement with life, then our service and our search will bear fruit. But if we try to love or lead, or work or pray, from a dry well, then we will serve a bitter cup to those around us and never really live the life we were given.” p. 49
“People say that what we’re seeking is a meaning for life.
I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking.
I think that what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive…
so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive.” -Joseph Campbell