Faithfulness

Maria Popva’s fantastic website Brain Pickings culls her myriad obsessions (literary, artistic, aural, spiritual, etc.) into a constant flow of enlightening posts.

Her piece on Parker Palmer’s recent Naropa University address showcases what makes Popova’s blog a must-read: she channels a nearly obscure current of would-be internet ephemera and siphons it in order to pique our own obsessiveness.

I had been ignorant of Palmer’s work, although I realize I heard him on an On Being podcast without having connected name to message. But given that the theme of this blog--Begin Again--is the overlap between the persistent and repetitive cycles of both artistic and spiritual work (the same but different and both as mundane as they are mysterious), the themes of his teachings are necessary to echo here.

Specifically, what struck a chord is Parker’s talking-point about parsing the difference between the ‘effectiveness’ of taking on the necessary and nagging tasks of our lives (those nefarious but essential to-do lists) and the overarching passion projects that inspire and drive what we often consider our ‘true’ work. While acknowledging that managing tasks effectively gets us short-term results, we also must return to and attend to those grander notions of what Parker refers to as faithfulness:

‘…(being) faithful to your calling, and to the true needs of those entrusted to your care.’

Surveying where I am right now, I have been emphasizing my day-job, which at present is a wild ride of travel-intensive IT project work and the constructing—along with my colleagues—of a business. It’s obvious why my focus is here now: the job pays, and it provides, and frankly, it’s fun, exciting, risky, scary. Creativity comes into play quite a lot in my day-to-day – much more than I would have guessed.

Still.

Lately I’ve been more effective than I have been faithful; or more accurately, I’m more aware of being effective and less aware of being faithful. And when I am aware of being faithful, I’m faithful in unexpected ways. Where I once relied on being myopically faithful to my artistic pursuits, I’m now spreading that faithfulness to my relationships, to my health, to my spiritual work, and, as noted above, even to my day job.

As Popova’s recap of Palmer’s address underscores, it’s heartening to know that I’m not alone in living a paradox: we know less and are less certain the longer we live.