Listening for your life’s deepest call

Writer Gregg Levoy, starting a four-month break from work, realized he “needed ‘space’----distance from all that was pressing in on me. I needed a penetrating quiet inside, and I needed to hold that silence up to my ears, like an empty shell, and listen to the roar of my own life. I had to try to make out what direction to take next. When I told a colleague what I planned to do now.....he asked, ‘What are you, rich?’ ‘No,’ I replied. ‘Desperate.’ “

This spirit of passionate inquiry suffuses Levoy’s pragmatic, guided approach to creating a more authentic life, in Callings. He helps the reader to identify what a calling is, how to prepare oneself to better hear the calls in our lives, how to actively invoke callings, and then what to do with them. The book’s latter two parts, “Saying No to Calls” and “Saying Yes to Calls,” are excellent, alone worth the price of the book. In contrast to a popular but overly simplistic and linear “create your own reality” philosophy, Levoy warns that simply following our callings doesn’t guarantee any particular outcome.

He describes the discovery one morning of a fallen birds’ nest, so carefully constructed twig by twig and now scattered, eggs smashed on a stone below, by the wind, a random act of wildness. We take our chances out there in the world. We go ahead and build our nests, dreams, callings, in the face of a blowing wind. We hope they’re secure, but we don’t know.....We might follow our callings and, after heroic efforts, just when we are ready to rest under a tree with the fruits of our labor, we’re called to rally again. And maybe yet again after that. Great struggles aren’t inevitably followed by great triumphs and then great vacations. Sometimes great struggles are followed by more great struggles. Maybe triumph and reward ensue, and maybe not.

For some this may sound discouraging or even frightening, but there is another way to look at it. In letting go of attachment to a particular form or outcome, we are free to follow our callings for their own sake, because it is right for us to do, because it is what life asks of us here, today, now.

Levoy so skillfully weaves the wisdom and insights of an amazing variety of sources and authors into his text that one barely notices how scholarly and well-researched the book actually is. Following along as easily as if one were floating on a gentle stream, it becomes clear that the crafter of this experience is indeed “called” to the work of the writer. From his first sentence to his last, Levoy’s writing is a feast, filled with rich description, provocative metaphors, and passionate aliveness.

Callings can inspire us to listen more deeply to the truth of our own lives, and, more important, to respond to what we hear-----and that dialogue can make all the difference.

Reviewed by Janet F. Quinn