Dec 27, 2009
Care of the Soul (Thomas Moore) and Careers
In the soul, power doesn't work the same way as it does in the ego and will. When we want to accomplish something egotistical, we gather our strength, develop a strategy, and applying every effort... The power of the soul, in contrast... is natural, not manipulated, and stems from an unknown source. Our role with this kind of power is to be an attentive observer noticing how the soul wants to thrust itself into our life. It is also our task to find artful means of articulating and structuring that power, taking full responsibility for it, but trusting too that the soul has intentions and necessities that we may understand only partially.
Neither ego-centered will on the one hand nor pure passivity on the other serve the soul. Soul work requires both much reflection and also hard work.
Writers are taught to "write what you know about." The same advice applies to the quest for the power of the soul: be good at what you're good at. Many of us spend time and energy trying to be something that we are not. But this is a move against soul... for each individual the soul is highly idiosyncratic. Power begins in knowing this special soul, which may be entirely different from our fantasies about who we are or who we want to be.
A friend once introduced me to an audience I was about to lecture. "I'm going to tell you," he said to the group, "what Tom isn't. He isn't an artist, he isn't a scholar, he isn't a philosopher, he isn't..." I felt somewhat mortified hearing all these things I wasn't. At the time I was teaching at a university and was supposed to give the illusion at least that I was a scholar. Yet I knew I wasn't. My friend's unusual introduction was wise and absolutely correct. Maybe we could all use an emptying out of identity now and then. Considering who we are not, we may find the surprising revelation of who we are.
I knew a young man who wanted to be a writer. Something in him urged him to travel and to live the Bohemian life, but he looked around and saw all his peers going to school. So he decided to overrule his desire for travel and take some college courses. Not surprisingly, he flunked out, and then went on a long trip. It is easy to overlook the obvious, persistent indications of soul, in this case the fantasies and longings for travel, and instead try to manufacture power with demanding and expensive efforts.
In Transitions (which I've quoted elsewhere and will likely quote again), William Bridges introduces his Rule number one of transitions: "you find yourself coming back in new ways to old activities, when in transition." I first started reading Care of the Soul in 2001 while I was on vacation with relatives in Indonesia. Today I'm reading it again while on vacation with the same extended family, currently convened in Texas. Coincidentally (?) the copy of the book I'm reading was purchased in Indonesia, while the one I read there was purchased at home.
The passage I've quoted speaks of travel and writing, both of which may be apt, of course. But the greater reason for sharing it comes from the prior passage which means much to me right now as I think about redesigning my profession. For years I assumed that I was a business person who happened to know a lot about people. But this fall, some very important business partners have me thinking that I've had it backwards. I'm a people person who happens to know a lot about business. The difference is very big and now I get to see what it means. Wish me luck.
Dec 20, 2009
Above, a pic from last year's southern Texas visit with my Indonesian/Vietnamese cousins and their American-raised kids. They live in a Texas-sized house but this is how they hang when they're at home: all together plus their dog (and in this pic, my dad).
Mom, dad and I will spend Christmas there this year. Around the living room we will have people born in Vietnam, Indonesia, the Philippines, Russia and the United States. I hope we'll eat lots of Mexican food and that I won't be a holiday recluse who avoids the living room because there are too many people :-)
Related post: On Asian/-American Family