Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Answer the call

What is a "calling?"
We often hear this term for a call to religious life but there are different callings and I think we all have them. When an ambulance occasionally rolls past my house my dog will howl. He starts low and quiet, deep in his throat, mouth closed, as he hears it in the distance. By the time it passes by he has to let go, head back, mouth open, full voice. It's almost like he tries not to but he can't help himself. I imagine it comes from deep inside him, from a time gone by when his ancestors ran in packs, he tries to resist but in the end he must answer the call of the wild.
People are like that also. We hear our callings. We may resist, but when we do we feel the conflict inside.
Sometimes, like today, a thought will enter my head. It starts small and I try to put it aside and fall back to sleep. Sometimes that works, but most of the time it just gets stronger and I know that unless I get up and write it down I will not sleep. So I start to write and the words just flow. Not that it will be a great piece of literature, any more than my dog's howl will be an opera. That's not the purpose, and I think that's the point, a calling, through it often does serve a purpose, doesn't need to.
Have you ever been in an activity and had time slow down? Had hours pass by in the blink of an eye? Have you ever had the feeling that you don't need to think of the next step, that your mind is a few steps ahead of you and everything flows, effortlessly?
Watch a great athlete when they're "in the zone", no one can stop them. At that moment they are doing exactly what they were meant to be doing, at least at that moment in time, they are answering their calling. It may or may not serve some greater purpose, that is not the reason behind it. It is simply that person answering their call.
We all have calls, many of them. Answering it gives us fulfillment, what Maslow called self actualization. Writers feel it, artists feel it, athletes feel it, we all do. At times it can border on compulsion. Have you ever been working on a hobby and lost track of time? Have you been so involved at work your mind and hands work in synchronization without effort? Have you tried to get away from a sport, maybe to rest an injury, and felt uneasy and just need to return? I know nurses who left the bedside, because they were burnt out, only to return, because "I had to." I know activists and organizers who worked untold hours for their cause, because "they had to."
When we answer our call logic is not important. It's a feeling thing, not a thinking thing.
My friend Jim is answering a different kind of call. He is going to Afghanistan. Until about a year ago, he worked in our ER. He joined the navy and will go in August to a war zone. He is not a soldier, he is a nurse. He goes to save lives but to do so he will need to put his own life at risk. I do not fully understand his motivation, I don't think I'm supposed to. I do know what that urge feels like, that pull, and I respect him for having the courage to answer his personal call and the call of our nation. There are so many like Jim, men and women who are serving or have served, God bless you all, and please, stay safe.

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