Don't Be Afraid of the Dark

"In the midst of depression I once asked my spiritual director how I could be feeling such despair when not long before the depression hit I had been feeling so close to God? 'Simple,' she said. 'The closer you get to light, the closer you get to darkness.' The deepest things in life come not singly but in paradoxical pairs, where the light and the dark intermingle."
The Active Life: Wisdom for Work, Creativity, and Caring


"Community and individuality are not an either/or choice, any more than life and death are. Instead, they are the poles of another great paradox. A culture of isolated individualism produces mass conformity because people who think they must bear life all alone are too fearful to take the risks of selfhood. But people who know that they are embedded in an eternal community are both freed and empowered to become who they were born to be."
The Active Life: Wisdom for Work, Creativity, and Caring


"The core message of all the great spiritual traditions is 'Be not afraid.' Rather, be confident that life is good and trustworthy. In this light, the great failure is not that of leading a full and vital active life, with all the mistakes and suffering such a life will bring (along with its joys). Instead, the failure is to withdraw fearfully from the place to which one is called, to squander the most precious of all our birthrights — the experience of aliveness itself. . . .

"For me, the heart of the spiritual quest is to know 'the rapture of being alive,' and (here is where I find Campbell incomplete) to allow the knowledge to transform us into celebrants, advocates, defenders of life wherever we find it. The experience of aliveness must never degenerate into a narcissistic celebration of self — for if it does, it dies. Aliveness is relational and communal, responsive to the reality and needs of others as well as to our own. For some of us, the primary path to that aliveness is called the active life. We need a spirituality which affirms and guides our efforts to act in ways that resonate with our innermost being and reality, ways that embody the vitalities God gave us at birth, ways that serve the great works of justice, peace, and love."
The Active Life: Wisdom for Work, Creativity, and Caring

Silence and Laughter

"The soul loves silence because it is shy, and silence helps it feel safe. The soul loves laughter because it seeks truth, and laughter often reveals reality. But above all, the soul loves life, and both silence and laughter are life-giving. Perhaps this is why we have yet another name for people who can share silence and laughter with equal ease: we call them soulmates."
A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey Toward An Undivided Life

The Gift of Teachers

"My gift as a teacher is the ability to 'dance' with my students, to teach and learn with them through dialogue and interaction. When my students are willing to dance with me, the result can be a thing of beauty. When they refuse to dance, when my gift is denied, things start to become messy: I get hurt and angry, I resent the students — whom I blame for my plight — and I start treating them defensively, in ways that make the dance even less likely to happen.

"But when I understand this liability as a trade-off for my strengths, something new and liberating arises within me. I no longer want to have my liability 'fixed' — by learning how to dance solo, for example, when no one wants to dance with me — for to do that would be to compromise or even destroy my gift. Instead I want to learn how to respond more gracefully to students who refuse to dance, not projecting my limitation on them but embracing it as part of myself."
Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation

True Self

"The figure calling to me all those years was, I believe, what Thomas Merton calls 'true self.' This is not the ego self that wants to inflate us (or deflate us, another form of self-distortion), not the intellectual self that wants to hover above the mess of life in clear but ungrounded ideas, not the ethical self that wants to live by some abstract moral code. It is the self planted in us by the God who made us in God's own image — the self that wants nothing more, or less, than for us to be who we were created to be.

"True self is true friend. One ignores or rejects such friendship only at one's peril."
Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation

Reclaiming the Gift

"We arrive in this world with birthright gifts — then we spend the first half of our lives abandoning them or letting others disabuse us of them. As young people, we are surrounded by expectations that may have little to do with who we really are, expectations held by people who are not trying to discern our selfhood but to fit us into slots. In families, schools, workplaces, and religious communities, we are trained away from true self toward images of acceptability; under social pressures like racism and sexism our original shape is deformed beyond recognition; and we ourselves, driven by fear, too often betray true self to gain the approval of others.

"We are disabused of original giftedness in the first half of our lives. Then — if we are awake, aware, and able to admit our loss — we spend the second half trying to recover and reclaim the gift we once possessed."
Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation