Review of Joan Chittister’s FOLLOWING THE PATH (Image Books, 2012)
Those familiar with Joan Chittister will likely add this tome to their collection. Those who may have never heard of her will hear a prophetic voice, calling us back to ourselves.
In the book, Chittister, A Benedictine Sister, takes up the question, What does it mean to have a purpose? How do we make our way in the world?
"Some people stay on roads long gone purposeless to them because they fear the unknowns of another one…in a culture that defines success as arriving at some pinnacle of permanent security, change is as likely to be seen as much a threat as an opportunity.
"As far as the call to live life in abundance, Chittister rhetorically asks the question: “Where did you ever get such a ridiculous idea?” to which she replies: “I don’t know where it came from. I only know that I can’t stop wanting to do it.”
Written from the Benedictine perspective, she knows the importance of stability in life: stability in relationships, in prayer, in love and goodness, and yes, even stability in change. She reflects upon our era prior to this time of the Great Recession where money and opportunity was taken for granted, in fact, taken so for granted, that there seemed to be a lack of stability in our world and well as our personal lives.
She writes: "Five years ago, a generation…was being told…that o be valuable in this society they needed to be able to show a minimum of five different employment positions on their résumé by the time they were forty.
"The purpose, of course, was to show flexibility. But with the advent of permanent flexibility went the security of stability, the virtue of settling down somewhere or settling into the long, slow process of building a new world rather than expecting to find it. The very notion of being in a thing for the long haul was so dull, ‘so yesterday.’
"That generation learned to move from one thing to another, simply waiting for the big opportunity to present itself—as everyone knew that it surely would, of course.
"Then, people knew, their purpose in life would be clear.
"Their passions satisfied.
"Their happiness secured.
"But the social by-product of such a worldview became very clear very soon. There was no reason in such a world to get too serious about anything too quickly. To think too hard or too much about what we were really called to—made for—in life was unnecessary. ....Life in [such] a limited environment is more about making a living than changing the world.
"That kind of freewheeling, open-ended, unlimited opportunity approach to life was a far cry from the era before it.
"Now “in this [present] social and economic climate…in our own time, for the first time in years, many are lucky to get a job—and keep it. But at the same time, it is a clarifying moment. It is more obvious than ever now that the noble purpose of life has got to be more than simply getting the next available job. Now, it is clear, a person’s purpose in life is greater than, requires more than, the ability to make money….
"The truly happy life is about activity that gives a sense of purpose to life. It is, in other words, activity the intent of which is to do good—to go beyond our own interests and claims—to the needs of the world around us.
"As William James put it, "The great use of life is to spend it for
something that will outlast it."
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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received the above book for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”