December 11, 2019

Sunday with Christian Wiman: Calling and Resistance

Down Our October Road (2018)

It’s almost the definition of a calling that there is strong inner resistance to it. The resistance is not practical—how will I make money, can I live with the straitened circumstances, etc.—but existential: Can I navigate this strong current, and can I remain myself while losing myself within it? Reluctant writers, reluctant ministers, reluctant teachers—these are the ones whose lives and works can be examples. Nothing kills credibility like excessive enthusiasm. Nothing poisons truth so quickly as an assurance that one has found it. “The impeded stream is the one that sings.” (Wendell Berry)

He Held Radical Light: The Art of Faith, the Faith of Art

Comments

  1. Susan Dumbrell says

    Perversely, I welcome Spring with excessive enthusiasm. After the gloom of Winter why should I not rejoice?
    I unfold like a cocoon ready to spread my wings in the warm sun. I can flit and fly uninhibited by the cold.

    Spring, such joy is ours
    blooms and birds sing His Glory
    Easter is always.

    Bright Blessings to all,
    Susan

    • rhymeswithplague says

      Spring is not a calling. It is an inevitability. No one can resist Spring.

    • Oh Susan, I’m living vicariously through you.

      • Susan Dumbrell says

        Sometimes I branch slightly off topic. Wrong move Sue!
        Sometimes I feel I am not in step with others on IMonk.
        Then, sometimes someone listens.Thank you.
        Spring is too glorious to ignore.
        How can I resist its calling?
        Re read the day’s topic. I am not wrong.
        Susan

  2. I must admit that I have no idea what a calling, or the resistance to it that Wiman talks about, would be like. I have no personal experience of either. I just forge along in my vocationless life and world.

    • I think Wiman knows he is speaking to a limited audience of people who need to hear what he has to say. The sad part will be all the folks who read him thinking he is talking to them when he really isn’t.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says

      I do not know anything about Mr. Winman, yet I believe one can have an entirely non-mystical meaning of “call”, and what he says applies. What he says applies to healthy adults undertaking any venture; skepticism is health.

      I heard a pastor once preach “The Need Is The Call”; that has stuck with me. If you are there, and you can help . . . then there you go. This happens on occasion: one finds oneself confronted with some cruelty, evil, injustice, or even indifference that one has the potential to move; due to skills, connections, resources, available time, etc… Then one has to make a choice – and all that skepticism applies

      Make a choice, or in the words of Malcom Reynods:

      Sheriff Bourne: A man can get a job, he might not look too close at what that job is. But a man learns all the details of a situation like ours, well, then he has a choice.
      Mal: I don’t believe he does.

      • It really doesn’t apply to me, since I’m not a healthy adult, and although I’m there, I can’t help. It is all I can do to get myself and my wife from one month to the next, and the time may soon come when I can’t even do that. No doubt the non-mystical “calls” have come in my life, but I missed them, or turned away from them due to fear; now there’s no going back to make things right. You could say I failed to heed my vocation.

        • Robert, you have not missed the call of the Lord upon your life. Rather you are living out the call of Christ in all his suffering and life. In all the ways we don’t agree on much I know the Lord watches over your life and your wife’s and will bless you both. May the Lord be with you always and never depart !!!

        • “…and although I’m there…” As I just heard today for the feast of St. Luke, the apostle Paul wrote from prison, “Only Luke is with me”. It is called ” the gift pf presence” and it is a much needed vocation which the Lord seems to have for you. ” Being there” is in itself what may be most needed. God bless you in being present, Robert F.

  3. Christiane says

    Wiman quotes Wendell Berry’s famous words, ” “The impeded stream is the one that sings.” ”

    I love that quote in the fullness of its context, this:

    “There are, it seems, two muses: the Muse of Inspiration, who gives us inarticulate visions and desires, and the Muse of Realization, who returns again and again to say
    “It is yet more difficult than you thought.” This is the muse of form. It may be then that form serves us best when it works as an obstruction, to baffle us and deflect our intended course.

    It may be that when we no longer know what to do, we have come to our real work
    and when we no longer know which way to go, we have begun our real journey.
    The mind that is not baffled is not employed.
    The impeded stream is the one that sings.”
    (Wendell Berry)

    Berry is a favorite of many folks, and his quotes are sometimes right out of reality, as in the case of this particular saying:
    “Do unto those downstream as you would have those upstream do unto you.” (Wendell Berry)
    I remember the days when Auntie Evelyn went up into the mountains of Western Massachusetts in order to collect fresh spring water for the whole family in plastic gallon jugs. This went on for years and years.
    UNTIL, the day came we cousins were with her and she is collecting from a favorite tap on the side of a mountain and along comes a forest ranger who knew her (the rangers all knew Evelyn) and he says, “Evelyn, you don’t want that water!” and she says ‘Why not, I’ve been getting water here for years?’ And he answers, “Evelyn, hippies have been living upstream all summer and they have been peeing into the water.”

    The rest of the story ends with us reviving Evelyn so she drive us home. 🙂
    I wonder if Wendell Berry was a New Englander? I wonder if he ever lived downstream from hippees?
    You can’t beat reality for telling it like it is.