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Notes on Gregg Levoy, Callings: Finding and Following an Authentic Life, 1997.

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Gregg Levoy, Callings: Finding and Following an Authentic Life, Three Rivers Press Random House, 1997.


-in many traditions, calling (sounds) precede prayer, rites of initiation, major life events. summon adherents away from routines to new level of awareness, into sacred frame of mind, communion with what is bigger than themselves. what is calling? 'life's longing for itself' (Gibran). 'living means being addressed' (Buber).

-we can't see the force, but we can see what it does. a return call, a response, creates a dialogue. our own unfolidng requires that we be in constant dialogue with whatever is calling us. call-response central metaphor for spiritual ife. listening = following in Latin.

'No man is an island, entire of itself...any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.' (Donne 1624) brings on the fear that frightens away sleep. no guarantee change for better.

-re-ligion = re-connect, re-member our selves, the deep life within us where religious impulse resides. William James: religion as 'the attempt to be in harmony with an unseen order of things'. 'hope is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out.' -we don't know enough to despair. Despair is hidden arrogance. i have seen the future and it doesn't work. hope is rooted in trust in the unknown. work, wait, and hope. that is enough. (Sam Keen)

-callings filtered through symbols, dreams (tell you how you really feel about x, help fine-tune direction and ascertain call, show unfinished business, remind us how much bigger our lives are than what we know consciously (c), show immense latent powers, it's about waking up, the u(nconscious) hinting at what the c is blind to), 'missing the boat' means delaying important decision. listening to dreams an act of humility).

-symptoms (purposeful conditions, like dreams a remind of what we've forgot) beginning of new phase of life, bring you close to center of existence, lead to personality growth, like dreams u info, 'illness of enormous benefit to me. I have learned little from anything that did not in some way make me sick.' (Alice Walker), we are responsible TO our illnesses (not FOR them) (Stephen Levine), ask what to do WITH them, spontaneous remissions but first experience favorable change in lives prior to healing.

-happenstances, synchronicities (levoy's queen of hrts. finds when at a loss, friend said 'they are sign you're on the right path, the universe winks and nods at you from time to time, to let you know', reminders, emanations, sparks thrown up by a great fire, coincidences start happening when i pray, meditate, prayer is a transition zone between c and u, where Hermes, messenger god, carries out his daily mail runs).

-archbishop William Temple Christianity and Social Order (1942) an Anglican social theology and a vision for what would constitute a just post-war society, supported a negotiated peace, as opposed to the unconditional surrender.

-mini-oracles. hidden, like Athena coming to aid of Ulysses disguised as a mortal, Semele, mother of Dionysus, incinerated with lightning and thunderbolts after being granted her request to see her lover, Zeus, in his full immortal splendor. examine from 3 pov: literal, metaphorical, universal (mystical, wordless). delphi originally shrine to Gaia, earth goddess, then Apollo, poetry.

-passion is the call, and form the response, the way we ground our calls in the world (Rollo May). passion/eros moves instinctively toward the creation of form. 'there are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.' (Rumi). Without passion, where will your compassion come from? (Matthew Fox)

-oracles not dispensing machines, to be approached for dialogue. in a spirit of 'radical innocence' (Yeats). call -> passion (Latin for suffering), sacrifice (punishment, also redemption/ rebirth). avoiding call -> dis-aster (Latin against one's stars). 'The fates lead those who will. Those who won't they drag. (Roman saying). callings keep surfacing till we deal with them. -repetition compulsions, urge drawing us to same type of partner, being fired again, fantasy that won't go away, symptom that recurs. God called to the prophets repeating their names twice 'abraham, abraham', jacob, moses. people won't pursue their callings until fear of doing so is finally exceeded by the pain of not doing so.

-monkey wants gourd in fruit trap. won't let go and hand stuck. must be willing to surrender = liberation, not defeat. give up transitory for sake of transcendent. sacrifice precedes resurrection. swap something temporal for something transcendent, turn suffering into victory. -feast days of christian martyrs--those extremists for liberation--are celebrated not on birthdays but on their death days, because that's when they were considered to have been truly 'born'. like evaporating water, give up an earthly bond in order to rise.

-always called to sacrifice, bigger and bigger surrender, dying to old way of being, till 'the final vocation' growing old gracefully and dying (M Scott Peck). 'we all owe God a death.' (Shakespeare, Henry IV part II). be aware of small surrenders each day (bad mood, forgiving someone, being honest) necessitates leap of faith not knowing outcome, the epitome of anxiety meeting courage (Kierkegaard). Jonah leaping overboard to save the crew (sacrifice, owning responsibility for disaster after realized couldn't escape God, then went to sleep in storm, tried to help but realized had to leap, was saved by whale (in belly a la pregnancy, 3 days) for rebirth and accepting his calling at last).

-ariadne's thread to save theseus in the labyrinth. what is your thread? loved one, enemy, your own courage and humor, even your own desperation, that will remind you of who you are. must learn strength, resolve, patience, compassion. approach obstacles as if allies. jonah's was whale.

-must go deep in our own well to reach the stream that's the source of all the wells -> our deep gladness meets the world's deep hunger, a call to real combat (Buechner, to teach love, save lives, change minds, minister).

-instruments to make invisible visible (particle chamber, microscope, compass, telescope, radio, tv, scientist, psychologist, artist, conscious attention)

-listen 'as if to hear from behind the wall the songs of birds who populate the secret gdn' (Rodin). aspire to be like a good animal--on the alert--or like someone in love. the first duty of love is to listen (Tillich). listening tells us what's true and what's not, when to proceed, whom to trust, which direction to take at the crossroads, where we're willing to be led. hunter follows the track till he reaches the maker -> the mystery is inside him

Tom Brown The Tracker (1978)).

Gordon Hempton The Vanishing Dawn Chorus sound portraits which record quickly vanishing natural soundscapes

biking as mindfulness practice -> follow dawn around the world. listen to whole-body, including primitive brain (limbic, reptilean, cerebellum (little brain)). can't measure or control, smacks of the feminine, scares us. contains instincts, basic awareness of environment, intuitions, emotions dreaming.

-great sacrilege in terms of the soul's integrity is 'inadvertence, of not being alert, not awake' (Campbell - 5 yrs in cabin reading) 'seeking meaning for life? no, we're seeking an experience of being alive, of the rapture of being alive' (The Power of Myth (1988)).

-dreams of sexually abused in branches of trees (trying to rise above the pain, look down fro a height, to understand the purpose for the pain). also flying dreams.

-don't wait for booming voice from on high. 'if you listen down below, you will deserve to hear from above' (Torah). be curious about yourself. to create, must gather facts first.

-sisyphus -gets rest from work when stone rolls back down.

-i've learned silence from the talkative, tolerance from the intolerant, and kindness from the unkind. yet, strange, i am ungrateful to these teachers.' (Gibran)

-conditioning anecdote -teacher 'will do embarrassing experiment' just to show fear of embarrassment in students -> students bored when he's at the window -> he stood by door after 45 minutes. we are conditioned to take standard direction. 'the atheisms within us are not so much denials of whatever is godly in the world, but denials of people telling us what to believe, what to do, what to think.' (Buechner).

-part of the wall is in our personal histories, part in the unlived parents' lives, conventional wisdoms. but the sword embedded in the stone can only be removed by the person to whom the sword belongs. when we attempt to carry our parents' unfilled lives, we squeeze out our own -> failure because caught in our parents' world (John Sanford) -light of cities obliterates stars, so weight of other's authority can blot out the singularity of our own (Milgram Obedience to Authority experiment with electric shocks).

-when give off busy signals, calls don't get through. in a collision, the car stops but the passenger doesn't. must wind down after intense calling/ writing, have another project germinating. need to open, adopt receptive posture (meditation). clear a strip in the jungle. doing nothing -> anxiety 'they keep shouting at Death' (workaholics, fear of silence (it's too close to a kind of death (of the ego)))

-calling asks: what do you love? terminally ill -most are liberated, feeling no longer trapped by life, free to speak their minds, follow their hearts, free from imaginary fears, tyrannical conformities, petty authorities. 'not a death sentence, but a life sentence', finally releasing passions and loves. when i know i have an expiration date, visual aids/ weakening body help to focus my attention.

-in making a decision 'no matter how uncomfortable, it feels right.' wounds can become gifts, moral outrage can move mtns, righteous anger propels social action -> motivators of pursuit of callings.

-first-rate intelligence -ability to hold two contrary ideas in mind and still retain ability to function. (Fitzgerald)

-meta-passions: need for freedom, creative fulfillment, security, belonging, influence, love

-'submission' of text to editor - a kind of surrender.

-you're not praying unless you move your lips (Robert Johnson), ie, something physical has to happen to establish you mean business, that your devotion to growth is real, not just merely a high opinion of yourself. need solemn ritual.

-'that which oppresses me, is it my soul trying to come out in the open, or the soul of the world knocking at my heart for its entrance?' 'i have spent my days stringing and unstringing my instrument while the song i came to sing remains unsung.' (Rabindranath Tagore) -boredom is restlessness (even workaholism is avoidance of boredom with life).

-pilgrimage site (ford, point of transit) people do at transition points in their lives. heavy hrt. Politics 'a kind of tuning up of my hrt to the affairs of the world'. Tibetan prayer 'to turn around in the place' (clockwise), hajj = circle symbol of wholeness, labyrinth -approach centre, but 'moth in flame' effect, so orbit to feel the heat but not burn. 'i am circling around God, around the ancient tower and I have been circling for a thousand yrs, and I still don't know if I am a falcon, or a storm, or a great song.' (Rilke). always at the centre in pilgrimage. even if we run in straight line, we're still running along the circumference of a circle that will eventually carry us back to where we started.

-'the happiest people i know are those who are following the same likes they had when they were children.' (Sharon Matola)

-'90% of shadow pure gold.' (Jung)

-sleeping beauty - everyone asleep, prince kisses princess and everyone wakes up (to new reality). rip van winkle, snow white, brunhild, hindu king muchukunda awakened by krishna, jonah.

-imagine the call arranging for the illness, so that you might practice for your later work. stutter/ shy =/ development problems to mechanical correct, but as symptons protecting a gift which 'burgeons like a night mushroom beneath a protective cover of fallen leaves.' (Houston, Hillman) ~ gay as challenge/ handicap -> spiritual growth. in desert plants develop spines, people who lose one sense, develop others, smaller animals breed more. parents who were negative role models for following your passions may motivate you to rebel against them. a competitor may end up being someone you team up with. two competing calls can come to benefit each other. childhood trauma can help you do your work in the world. can start off organizing to help others who have suffered the same fate. even delay in following calling -> richer and deeper self to write from. must turn limitations into our own creations, raw materials for composing a life. work with what's there. find destination in destiny. silver platter is defeating. creativity demonstrates itself in the absence of money, time, contacts, applause.

-you're not free till you have to make a choice. freedom is only potential energy. you have to give it a body in motion, turn potential energy into kinetic energy. freedom that you're now exercising with every footfall. 'creative destruction', narrow your focus, reject other roads. you fashion not only a life, but also chronicle a death, ghosts and all.

-the past shapes us, but by following the deep calling to heal ourselves and throw off old curses, we can reshape our response to that past and even the way we remember it. sometimes we're called to move backward so that we can move forward with a greater sense of ourselves and with greater confidence.

-'i'm very brave generally, only today i happen to have a headache' tweedledum in Through the Lkg Glass.

-chaos is pure potential from which all things and all beings emerged'the field of infinite possibilitys (Deepak Chopra).

-afraid of failing in God's eyes -endpoint of our lives comes down to 'a single terrifying idea: that God wants us to become Himself. God not just the source, but the destination of evolution.' (Peck Rd Less Traveled). so must give our all. go beyond our limits, makes sense because the One that calls us is beyond all limits. journey from man to God is like journey from ape to man ie, long and unlikely (Heraclitus).

-conflicts formidable, fears intense, makes us think twice, maybe conflict with other calling, part of ourselves we haven't consulted, conflicting beliefs, conflict with taboo that must be broken 'real men don't', fear of losing others (approval vs authenticity). if fail, then it is not our life, just an illusory defense against death. (maslow). don't bury resistance, can't pluck it out like a bad tooth. must wrestle with it. 'it would be an amputation, not a cure.' (Jung)

-avoidance of call -become art critic, not artist, schoolteacher rather than parent, reporter rather than novelist.

-we are all failures in the end, will die and be forgotten, so don't worry about failure. 'nothing ventured, nothing gained.' -but toothache still hurts.

-when we no longer know what to do we have come to our real work, and when we no longer know which way to go, we have begun our real journey. the mind that is not baffled is not employed. the impeded stream is one that sings. (Wendell Berry)

-lose old ties with calling -you threaten their bourgeois norms. say: it's just something i've got to do and if you don't support me i'll do it without you.'

-woody allen 'everything you always wanted to know about sex' -mission control rm like 'enterprise' and technicians -bodyguards drag in half-crazed priest they found in cerebral cortext turning up guilt reflex

-rewind and play back parts of your childhood and try to understand whose messages are embedded like fishhooks. look at who is pointing the finger, what motivates their lives, what are their values, what chips on their shoulders, do you believe what they believe, value what they value, operate the way they operate? find the stories beneath the stories we're told, the agendas hidden behind the advice. until a son can see his father/ mother as just another man/ woman who had children and dreams that did or didn't come true, and who struggled with personal demons, he doesn't really grow up, and is unlikely to forgive parents for their misdirections and criticism.

-transgender/ cross dresser 'lost souls' 'felt like a spy, moving unnoticed through all the intimate realms of boyhood and manhood, sharing their idiosyncratic society, and yet living in a no-man's-land, in a body that was all wrong for his spirit.' the dilemma of any gay. 'if a panther is confined to a cage, a great will stands stunned and numbed.' (Rilke).

-we remain outsiders to ourselves. (in pushtu cling=die) 'if you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. if you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.' (gospel of thomas)

-measure our fear of death by the distance between our desires and our actions, between the life we want and the life we have. when say no to calling, Force of Completion fires up and works toward our conversion -> suffering to silence all irrelevant voices. (Kierkegaard). if we don't attend to the soul, it will come to us as symptoms. (Thomas Moore Care of the Soul) most hrt attacks 9am monday ie going to work you don't like. not poisonous to do without something we really want, what is poisonous is to pretend that the second-rate is first-rate. (Lessing)

-choosing safe, boring rather than risky, stimulating calling -> anger, frustration, remorse, sorrow (and negatively affects our family, community) -> physical symptoms. symptoms do not belong first to disease, but to destiny (Hillman). monkey button to avoid shock experiment -> die of ulcer after 3 wks (anxiety, no peace), better to accept risk of calling.

-calling demands strength, but not necessarily physical or rigid will, maybe surrender, sacrifice. -Jesus promised only three things 'that they would be absurdly happy, entirely fearless, and always in trouble.’ (Marty Babcok)

-habit is habit, and not to be flung out the window, but coaxed downstairs a step at a time.' (Twain)

-whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. but 'to put your ideas into action is the most difficult thing in the world.' (Goethe) 'the poem in the head is always perfect.' (Stanley Kunitz)

-the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation, but it is a characteristic of wisdom not to do desperate things. (Thoreau)

-be regular and orderly in your daily affairs that you may be violent and original in your work. (Flaubert)

-whatever there be of progress in life comes not through adaptation, but through daring. (Henry Miller)

-predator’s eyes face forward, while prey’s eyes on opposite sides of head. ie, we are created for initiative.

-sacrifice is the shadow in the calling. (Moore) -original Hebrew for sacrifice meant to bring nearer. the mtn will come to muhammad. (vs m to mtn ie, inevitable)

-cause-and-effect is the narrowest way of seeing the world, and your goals then become conditional. don't negotiate with the gods. just offer yourself, 'thy will be done' without knowing the outcome. (Deena Metzger)

-preop surgery patients who room with postops heal faster and leave hospital sooner than those paired with other preops. [same with any relationship - mentor valuable. one person's calling can inspire another's. teach primarily by example. athena came to telemachus disguised as Mentor, to guide him while Ulysses was on pilgrimage. mentors must be 'enthusiastic' they know that the invisible faculties of faith, intuition and instinct are real forms of knowledge, and that the fourth-dimensional grace of gods and guardian angels, spiritual guides and fairy godmothers, Brother Sun and Sister Moon, are worth invoking if they help us get by. mentor perceives self in another, Jung called generativity.

-the gods have two ways of dealing harshly with us. denying our dreams or granting them. (Wilde)

-vertigo not just the fear of falling, but also the desire to fall; it is the voice of the emptiness below us that tempts and lures us. (Kundera)

-an adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. an inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered. (Chesterton)

-we don't say yes to a call once only. we must renew our commitment regularly, lest it be overtaken [calvin evangelical born again and again]

-those who have a why to live can bear with almost any how. (Nietzsche)

-the (writer's) talent of the room: how long can you stay in that room? how much fear can you endure by yourself? (Michael Ventura)

-by saying yes to our calls, we align ourselves with natural forces instead of pitting ourselves against them, become like flower or animal simply expressing their inherent natures.

-whence solace comes? in cleaving to the Dream. (Hardy) -when follow a call, we are relieved of the regrets that would have ensued if we had not done so. we want our lives to catch fire and burn blue, not smolder. use ourselves up, leave this life the way we entered it--complete--and die with a yes on our lips, making that last transition, that final threshold, with some grace, with eyes wide open, not squeezed shut as if for a blow. by flood our lives with light that can shine back out of them, to make life easier to explain to ourselves when it's over and we're wondering 'what was that all about?', we just may be able to face death more squarely. fear of death is the fear that we're not living the way we want to. -honoring a calling ameliorates our fear of what lies hidden in us and the unknown hidden in the world. not so scared of our own shadows. we bring flesh to the word and form to faith, substance to dreams, to passions and ancient urgencies. ground ourselves in life.

-by the laws of affinity, like attracts like and people and material will gravitate to our integrity and receptivity. (Anna Halprin) -when the flower opens, the bees will come. (Kabir)





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Canadian Eric Walberg is known worldwide as a journalist specializing in the Middle East, Central Asia and Russia. A graduate of University of Toronto and Cambridge in economics, he has been writing on East-West relations since the 1980s.

He has lived in both the Soviet Union and Russia, and then Uzbekistan, as a UN adviser, writer, translator and lecturer. Presently a writer for the foremost Cairo newspaper, Al Ahram, he is also a regular contributor to Counterpunch, Dissident Voice, Global Research, Al-Jazeerah and Turkish Weekly, and is a commentator on Voice of the Cape radio.

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