The Callings of the World
Gregg Levoy

When I play the piano, I sometimes finish a piece by holding my foot on the sustain pedal and listening intently as the sound fades and eventually merges with the surrounding silence.  When the last note is barely audible, there is a moment when I'm not certain if I'm still hearing the note or imagining it, whether it's part of me or part of the world.

No matter how hard I struggle to discern where I leave off and others begin, ultimately I find that there's no telling.  I cannot convince myself that there is such a place.  I cannot find a ramrod boundary line, only watery expanses, and in the diminuendo I'm always being carried out into the world.  I grapple with a question once posed by the psychologist June Singer:  "The space between us, is it a space that separates us or a space that unites us?"

The world continually reminds us that our calls both do and do not belong solely to us.  Just as calls issue from our own bodies in the form of symptoms, they also come from the body politic, of which we're each single cells.  Where an affinity of wounds connects us to others, where the world in its shocking condition touches our lives in a personal way, we can find ourselves responding to a call and turning from sympathizers to activists.

What we each determine is a fitting response is entirely subjective.  One person might take on multinational corporations or federal laws or the plight of an entire race of people, another might adopt a child from the Third World, and yet another might simply sweep the street in front of the shop every morning.  For some, all the activism they can handle in this life is in trying to heal their own souls, though by most accounts this is the work of the world.  Contemplative nuns and monks, writers, and most artists serve the world best, for instance, in solitude.  They touch the world most intimately when they're completely alone, conferring their medicine through prayer and painting, through writing books and working the beads.  They may seldom see a soul yet be engaged in the deepest soul work, which simultaneously serves the greater community.

The world never stops calling, never stops acting as though it belongs to us, and its pain is always gathering force like storms offshore.  It sends out flares the way we send signals into space, always hoping that someone will come across them, will understand what they mean, will trace the calls.  It shouts to us from the sickroom, from the cold calculus of the daily news, and from whatever we can't stand to look at and so avert our eyes.  The world gets harder and harder to ignore as it gets smaller and its problems bigger, as whatever hits the fan gets a little more evenly distributed.

This is the first book to examine the many kinds of calls we receive and the great variety of channels through which they come to us.  A calling may be to do something (change careers, go back to school, have a child) or to be something (more creative, less judgmental, more loving).  How do we recognize it?  How do we distinguish the true call from the siren song?  How do we handle our resistance to a call?  What happens when we say yes? What happens when we say no?

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We fear our highest possibilities.  We are generally afraid
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under the most perfect conditions, under conditions of great courage.

Abraham Maslow


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We have to get children to understand that not only do they have
this incredible uniqueness, but they also have something that
sometimes we forget about.  They are also potentiality.  They are
much more undiscovered than they are discovered.  And there's the
wonder of it.  It doesn't matter where they are, they're only just
beginning and the big magical trip of life is digging
it all out and discovering the wonderful you.

Leo Buscaglia