The Monster and the Whirlpool : Navigating the Way to Vocation
Richard Barna, Mark, The World and I
Job satisfaction is not so simple anymore. Middle-aged baby boomers and their offspring generally demand more from their vocation than previous generations demanded from theirs. Not content with moderate income and job security, they want emotional or intellectual satisfaction from work as well. Some leave the day-to-day grind to pursue an artistic endeavor full time. Some, wanting to serve society, join a philanthropic organization or go into public service. Others seek ways to achieve financial independence. To justify their actions, sacred teachings are often invoked.
Best-selling spiritual books tend to cater to our deeply rooted desire to discover purpose in life, telling us to do what we love, to make a difference in the world, to be our own boss. And the books are persuasive: a bad job fit can wilt the human spirit. On the other hand, one can flourish in a job amenable to one's God-given talents, lending credence to Mark 4:25: "For he that hath, to him shall be given; and he that hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he hath."
And yet the content of these books is essentially a watering down and a misunderstanding of perennial truths. Since New Thought and Walt Whitman, a stream of American thought has tended toward simplistic confidence games. "You can be whatever you want to be." "Change your attitude, change your life." "Believe, and all things are possible." At the turn of the century, William James took up the gauntlet, and Dale Carnegie, Norman Vincent Peale, Robert Schuller, James Hillman, Tony Robbins, and Deepak Chopra have followed.
There is nothing new in using spiritual ideas to justify earthly values. What was new in America, beginning in the 1960s, was the growing popularity of Asian faiths, particularly Buddhism. Christianity's "darkness" kept it only a minor accomplice to today's feel-good spirituality. By contrast, Buddhism's nontheism, quietism, and wishy-washy ethical stance were easily appropriated by spiritual writers, who assured readers it was OK to be prideful and to desire the pleasures of life.
Buddhism also had the advantage of being exotic and therefore more appealing to Americans than …
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Publication information: Article title: The Monster and the Whirlpool : Navigating the Way to Vocation. Contributors: Richard Barna, Mark - Author. Magazine title: The World and I. Volume: 14. Issue: 11 Publication date: November 1999. Page number: 332. © 1999 News World Communications, Inc. COPYRIGHT 1999 Gale Group.
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