Joan Chittister: Is This All There Is?


“Nothing disquiets the soul more than a feeling of being unfinished, adrift, rudderless at the same time. There is something more we’re meant to do in life, we’re sure, but no way, apparently, to dispel the aura of aimlessness in which we have begun to live. I go to work every morning but no amount of money could really make me like it, feel good about being there, able to convince myself that being there is where I’m meant to be.

There is a cosmic sense of frustration about knowing myself to be on the way to somewhere—but in the dark. I do my best at everything I do, however mundane, however humble. I know that cooking hamburgers in a short-order place is a decent thing to do in life. But I can’t believe that is all I’m meant to do in life. There must be more. There simply must be more I’m supposed to be doing than making hamburgers for people who can pay for them.

I avoid class reunions because everybody else there talks big plans about big things, but nothing big has ever happened to me. Nor have I begun yet to realize that there is a distinction between going to work and pursuing my call. So I go through life disappointed with the job but unable to realize that the call, for me, may be far and wide away from any paid occupation anywhere.

I have yet to understand that my call may start after work ends every day. My call may be to organize games for street children, or write to prisoners, or make casseroles for the old woman next door, or learn another language in order to help refugees adapt to the small white town in which I live.

The point is clear: my sense of worth and purpose in life is tied up with the quality of life I provide for others, for the planet, for the human race. Solving equations all day long, or encoding a computer all day long can also be boring, can also seem worthless, unless I’m doing these things in order to be some small part in curing an insidious disease or finding a formula that reduces the world’s dependence on fossil fuels.

It may be something as simple as producing materials that ennoble the human mind rather than pander to it, selling and creating things that enhance life rather than destroy it. And, yes, making hamburgers for those who can pay for them can also be a call, provided that working in this place is what enables me to care consciously for someone else in some other way.

In the end, it is passion and purpose—passion and purpose—that are of the essence of a vocation, a call to do something that makes me a conscious co-creator of the world.”–Joan Chittister, OSB

From Following the Path: The Search for a Life of Passion, Purpose and Joy

1 thought on “Joan Chittister: Is This All There Is?”

  1. By great coincidence I located your book, There is a Season.
    I love it !!!!! A friend in Dublin wrote me he was reading your work; then a local friend said she had that book, and loaned it to me. I
    couldn’t put it down ! At our book store I also bought your
    Called to Question ! Yes, you have a new fan ! I am amazed that you are able to be so outspoken without having limitations placed on you somehow. Keep the good work going …………….!

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