Thursday, November 17, 2011

Risking My Talent

No, not this Jesus.

Heads Up: The following post involves a Bible verse, a sermon, and some personal theological contemplations. Although by my writing this, I do not purpose to convert or contradict anyone else, I realize that many people come here for the swearing and the feminist-co-opted-neo-sexism and that religious talk can be a very touchy subject. Therefore, consider this your heads up that things are going to get a little Presbyterian in here. I'm going to talk about the Parable of the Talents (or Matthew 25:14-30, if you prefer to look it up manually in Ye Olde Good Booke).

This past weekend, I spent a lot of time soul-searching, and a lot more time looking around for a clue of what I should do. A quick explanation of my relationship to Faith: I believe there is something beyond the world we see and touch everyday, and I believe that conceptions of God(ess)/Allah/Buddha/The Universe* are all human attempts to comprehend something that defies comprehension. That said, I was also raised as a dyed-in-the-wool Protestant, which means I grew up with a lot of ideas about God being immediately accessible - if I want to talk to God, I can, directly and without a lot of hassle, although I might not always understand what I hear back. Therefore, when I say I was looking for a clue, I do mean I was looking for The Universe to provide an answer to all the questions whirling in my head - why did I lose my job? What does it mean? What am I supposed to do now? Where should I start?

One of my mentors is a major proponent of listening to and following whatever the heart tells you to do -- and my heart was telling me to go to church. Although I no longer identify with many of Christianity's dogmatic elements, the church I grew up in continues to be a source of comfort and community for me, and I've previously found a good deal of personal guidance in the texts being studied. On Sunday, the sermon was on the Parable of the Talents. The takeaway lesson, for those who are unfamiliar, is that God doesn't want people to merely take care of their possessions (our talents, more specifically, the name of a form of currency back in Mark's day) - God wants people to increase those possessions through risking them out in the world. Rather than taking this as a sign that I need to invest every last penny I own in the stock market, the sermon's suggestion was that I should take stock of what talents I possess, in the contemporary sense, and find a way to increase my use of them and thus live my life to its full potential. And after all, I'm out of a job and rapidly running out of money - leaving me with only those possessions that money can't buy.** So, what are my talents?

First the obvious ones: I'm an artist that works in a variety of fields: music, literature, and visual art. Also, I'm a rather smashingly skilled conversationalist and a caring and compassionate person, with a good eye for color and design and a fierce sense of loyalty and desire to do the right thing and make a difference in the world. Surely, there's some way I can put these to work?

Yet as the job search continues on, and I lower my expectations from 'Jobs I Want' to 'Jobs I Can Get,' it's hard to feel like I'm doing anything more than burying my talents once again in the literally proverbial ground (ha ha) -- and the drained feeling I experienced over these past months is terrific evidence for why I shouldn't try to do that again. This contradiction, between what I want to do and what I seem able to do, brings me back to that damn loop of eternal questions:  What Am I Supposed to Do Now, and Where Should I Start?

 Ever since Sunday, I've been sitting around, trying to figure it out, but so far, this dame is no closer to getting back to neglecting her kitchen for working a job that truly utilizes her talents than she is to working a job that sucks all creative energy out of her. At times like this, sometimes it's better to go to sleep and let things work themselves out -- and in the meantime, trust that no doubt, the universe is unfolding as it should. (ALERT: SEVERE CHEESINESS AHEAD, AND NOT IN THE DELICIOUSLY ORANGE CHEEZ-IT SENSE - CLICK AT YOUR OWN RISK.)

My apologies for the excessively cheesy song and video; the message really is tremendously good, and I like the gospel choir in this version. But yeah, sorry about that. For now, since I don't have an answer to the big questions, I leave you with this instead:

Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. 
As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even to the dull and the ignorant, they too have their story. Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit. 
If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself. Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time. 
Exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals, and everywhere life is full of heroism. Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love, for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is perennial as the grass. 
Take kindly to the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. 
Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. 
Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul. 
With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. 
Be cheerful. Strive to be happy. 
~ Max Ehrmann c.1920

Max Ehrmann, you are a boss.

*Please keep in mind this plurality of definition as we move on; I would hate to bore you with rambling titles every time.
** At least not directly - ::cough cough:: College, ahem.


  1. What a great post, Kate. I saved the quote in a word doc so I can reference it later. You have such amazing talents, especially planning parties - party planner in your future?

  2. Ooohh, party planning, professional or no, is ALWAYS in my future, MissPetie!! ;)