Tuesday, October 6, 2015
Who Shall I Say is Calling?
I love this Leonard Cohen song--a mix of cheeky irreverence and the deepest roots of Cohen's faith. And we are all wondering who is calling at times, I think--opportunities that present themselves can be a purely fortuitous, or can change a life by the saying the word "yes."
I'm reading, as you may know, the Ashcroft-Lyon Manuscript, Mark Twain's great, angry confession of sin against his daughters, and scathing indictment of Isabel Lyon (who sometimes emerges from the torrent of invective with a glimpse of what led him to care for her in the first place. It's not the ravings of a senile old man as Hamlin Hill intimated, it's not reliable history any more than Isabel's altered diaries are--Clemens's sense of betrayal and his own lacerating feeling of loss make his mood swing from judicious to rage-filled, to hurt far too quickly for it to be that.
It is, though, what Clemens wanted his Autobiography to be: naked to life.
What does this have to do with calling, or Cohen for that matter?
Clemens saw his creation of "Mark Twain" as a calling, I think--a burden attires, but a vocation to go deeper and deeper into what he found to be true, and to express it, despite the conventions of his age, his own inhibitions, the dictates of good taste. he longed, this teller of tall tales and yarns, to speak truth. That was, in the end, his final calling. To speak truth as he saw it.
He succeeded. he failed. He failed better.
And, I think, that is how I feel about my callings, professional and vocational. I'll let out a little secret, here: I recently found myself in a sudden, chaotic, and daunting situation where I had to perform as a deacon on no notice, with no aid but the crucifix I wear around my neck, hanging under my dress shirt. I did the best I could, whatever that was. Can't tell, really; you don't always get feedback in ordained ministry. Sometimes you just plunge in, hoping to God (literally, not profanely) that your instincts are right. And leave it up to God.
No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.
And--here's the part Beckett wouldn't sign on to--leave the rest to God.