This post is part of a series about living well in groups. They are a series of meditations inspired by a chapter in the New Testament. It is Pauls first letter to the Corinthians chapter 12. Verse 7, in the New International Version of the Bible says,
“Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.”
There is a word for expressing our individuality in a socially validated role – ‘vocation’. It suggests a harmony between the individual’s own contribution and a benefit to the group.
Vocation: socially validated individuality
A vocation is a socially validated role for the expression of individuality. It is the expression of the core of an individual in a social role. It is fulfilling for the individual and useful to society. A vocation is the reconciling of social requirements and individual needs. It is a win-win.
It is an old-fashioned word. And the concept isn’t welcomed by economists or employers – they want people who will adapt to their demands. They don’t want individuals constrained by their own needs but functionaries without desires, cogs devoid of individuality, (though creativity is one of the attributes they claim to want. Whether this is sincere is shown by how much time employees are given to think, and whether mistakes are celebrated as much as successes).
There are signs of a longing for vocation I think. A lot of the desire for self-employment is due to wanting to do personally meaningful work. The maker movement (people rediscovering crafts) and downshifters (those who voluntarily reduce their lifestyle) surely aren’t driven by the desire for great wealth.
Reflect on what it is that you would most like to do. If you were to express the essence of who you are, how would you do this? How would this benefit others? What do you think it would be like to be part of a group where everyone was living out their vocation?