Gregg Levoy approaches the subject of callings in a way quite different from that of most of the authors reviewed here. While he does off “Callings” workshops, he is primarily a freelance writer by profession, and he brings well-honed literary skills to his discussion. Some readers will keenly appreciate the result: Levoy’s book is a indeed a feast of prose. (However, readers who are looking for more breezy how-to advice may find the book too verbose.)

By the word calling, the author refers not just to career. This book, he writes, “is about remembering our vocations----in the true sense of the word-----whether they are vocations in the area of work, relationship, lifestyle or service. They may be calls to do something (become self-employed, go back to school, leave or start a relationship, move to the country, change careers, have a child) or calls to be something (more creative, less judgmental, more loving, less fearful).”

Callings is filled with wise observations about life. Of all the authors reviewed here, he is the only one to note that in following one’s bliss or finding one’s purpose, sacrifice is always necessary. While sacrifice is usually seen as deprivation, Levoy notes that it is an “essential fact of life....each time we sacrifice-----each time we let go of something, die to an old way of being----we are practicing for bigger and bigger surrenders, eventually for what M. Scott Peck calls ‘the final vocation: growing old gracefully.’ “

One nearly every page Levoy inserts pithy quotes from his literary and spiritual heroes----Annie Dillard, Joseph Campbell, Thomas Merton, Toni Morrison, Thomas Moore.

The book also overflows with stories----first-person anecdotes from the author’s own experience, and tales related in countless interviews and conversations with others. We meet fascinating people like Fran Peavey, who came up with the idea of sitting on park benches all over the world, holding a sign saying, “American Willing to Listen,” and who went on to write the book Heart Politics. Or like Sharon Matola, who runs the only zoo in Belize, caring for animals used in making wildlife films who could not survive in the wild afterward.

Callings is a long literary journey, but the author makes it an entertaining and rewarding one. “In saying yes to our calls,” he writes, “we bring flesh to word and form to faith. We bring substance to dreams, to passions, and to the ancient urgencies. We ground ourselves in life and bring ourselves into being as alchemists and magicians in their finest hours.” By the end of the journey, we are encouraged not only to listen more carefully to our own callings, but to answer with honesty and conviction.”

---Review by Michael Davis

 

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