In a recent essay in The Christian Century, L. Roger Owens confesses that he is guilty of what a wise friend dubbed “vocational gluttony.” Recognizing his own malaise in that descriptor, Owens wonders, “Was I greedy for excessive variety in my vocational pursuits? Was I refusing vocational simplicity, refusing to focus, to settle down, to be satisfied?”
Owens goes on to refer to the “trifecta” of Mary Oliver, Frederick Buechner, and Annie Dillard, writers who variously invoke the significance (and necessity?) of a one, true calling. There is a compelling power to the idea of a unified singularity when it comes to how we understand our life’s purpose.
Woodcut attributed to Albrecht Dürer from Ship of Fools by Sebastian Brant, published in Basel in 1498. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.
This is a theme that Daniel Meyers’ takes up in “Plurality of Vocations: Finding Seasons Rather than Singularity.” Daniel writes, “Vocation has too often been framed as a singular pursuit. I hope imagining a plurality of callings might open new doors of reflection, new questions of discernment, and new ways of living out life’s many seasons.”
Ultimately, Owens’ settles upon the metaphor of a “through line,” the underlying reason for his many pursuits:
Vocation doesn’t have to be about focus, finding the one right thing, discerning the one right job, landing in the one right place. Instead, we might begin to discern whether there’s a through line that gives coherence to the variety of pursuits that call for our attention. We might look at our lives and say, Yes, these pursuits make sense as chapters in a coherent vocational story, even if on the surface the relationship among them is not obvious.L. Roger Owens, “Vocational Gluttony,” The Christian Century (September 28, 2021)