For many fundamentalists, religious practice revolves around one inward-looking question: Am I saved? As the world has witnessed, however, the Occupy Generation takes their embodied spirituality in the opposite direction, eliminating the division between the sacred and mundane, and blending spiritual vocation with career and public activism.
Our dialogue continues with the fourth pattern we’ve seen in our conversations with today’s generation of mystic prophets:
An Excerpt from Chapter 2 of Occupy Spirituality: A Radical Vision for a New Generation
by Adam Bucko and Matthew Fox, published by North Atlantic Books, copyright © 2013. Reprinted by permission of publisher.
ADAM BUCKO: Point number four is related to what you were saying—that this new spirituality says that spirituality that does not include action is no spirituality at all. But it’s not just about any action—it’s about action that comes from one’s deepest calling. This spirituality does not accept the reality of living a divided life, such as complete withdrawal or a separate career divided from one’s soul and its deepest aspirations. Those dualities of the past no longer apply here. For young people today, the sense of vocation and the sense of a calling become the very doorways into spirit. So this new spirituality also realizes that the new world can be created only if people incarnate their unique gifts and callings in the world and employ them in the service of compassion and justice.
MATTHEW FOX: As I reflect on the topic of vocation, I remember the distinction I make in my book The Reinvention of Work, in which I point out the difference between a job and work. A job is something we do to pay our bills. Work is the reason we are here on Earth. It is a call; it is our purpose; it is how we give back. Today I find lots of young people who are willing to sacrifice an overcommitment to job in order to devote themselves more to their work. This entails living a simpler lifestyle, of course, and often living in community. Vocation raises to importance in such a value system.
ADAM BUCKO: This point is especially important for me, because I feel that this is definitely my path, which is service—sacred activism and karma yoga. This idea of a calling or vocation is, in my opinion, uniquely inspired by Western traditions. If you look at the Eastern traditions, there is less focus on an individual calling. The Bhagavad Gita, for example, talks about the importance of service, but it’s more about fulfilling your role or duty. It says that as long as you’re not attached to the results of your actions, your service will lead you to union with God. In Western traditions, there is more of a concept of individuation. You’re literally called by name to a specific kind of task. In this way, sensing your calling becomes a very deep connecting point with life and God, because you really discover your unique expression in life and the unique contribution that you can make.
MATTHEW FOX: Very well said. And the kind of action we’re talking about is action that comes from non-action, comes from being—it comes from where the deep call is. Again, to introduce some concepts here, which is always useful, because concepts can help you to go deeper, and they provide a certain objectivity, the ability to step back and analyze our deep experiences. One of the concepts that I have always found useful is the dialectic between mysticism and prophecy. Or, if you will, contemplation and action, or that which constitutes a spiritual warrior—that a warrior, as distinct from a soldier, has an interior life and undergoes practices that feed one ’s deepest level of being, not just the compulsion to act.
I also observe in younger people that they’re not content to just live at the level of action and recovering from action, but rather, as you said, action as an expression of their being and of their calling. And in a way, this is also talking about everyone living their lives artfully, because that’s what art is. As the psychologist Otto Rank said, for the artist, his or her work is their life. Their work and life come together in vocation, because there’s a calling and because there’s a love affair going on. So when we can learn to love our work, because it is our calling and because it is in service for others, then there’s a loop—there’s a return. You don’t burn out nearly as quickly, and you don’t need that much to live on. You can live a simpler life, because, for one thing, you don’t have to be dashing away to expensive resorts to heal.
ADAM BUCKO: And you don’t have to act out to get a break from things, because you’re being fed by your work.
MATTHEW FOX: Exactly. You’re being fed by your work. And that’s a wonderful loop to be in. And, again, a sign of that is joy. The joy is embedded in the loop, because you’re receiving joy as well as putting it out.
Joy is the focus of our next post, as we explore the Occupy Generation’s gift of incorporating play, creativity, and positive growth into this new embodied spirituality.
Till then, we invite your thoughts: How do you mesh your spiritual life with your work? Does your job feed your soul and reflect your deepest values? And what would need to happen for it to do so?
Don’t miss the Occupy Spirituality Book Club on Patheos, September 16-30!
See when Matthew Fox and Adam Bucko will be speaking about Occupy Spirituality in your area: http;//www.matthewfox.org/calendar