December 30, 2009


Are three callings too many? Is one?

I am a Buddhist, a Writer, and an Architect. This is how I define myself, by those things I am called to do. They are not merely jobs or interests. They are compulsions. I did them before I knew I did them. Once I had names for them of course, I chose to define myself by them, creating an illusion of solidity. Sometimes I think I was building my house on sand. Or perhaps on the San Andreas Fault, where the pushing and pulling of giant forces will shake this house, this life, this illusion I’ve built for myself down upon my head.

Mostly I try to find balance, weaving all three together in a manner I hope makes for a rich life. Maybe “rich life” is just a euphemism for attention deficit disorder. Of course, they complement one another, or so I tell myself. Besides, in addition to what I am called to do there is what I am – daughter, student, coworker, friend, sister, woman, Nebraskan, American, white, young, tall, boss, granddaughter, introvert, cousin, classmate, etc. I manage all those roles well enough, so what’s the big deal about the Big Three?

I can’t say I chose to be Buddhist or a Writer or an Architect anymore than I chose to be a daughter or a woman. I can’t even say I’m more successful at these than others. I’m not a good Buddhist; I barely ever sit and don’t even have a sangha or a teacher. I may write a lot, but I’ve never had anything major published. Legally I can’t even call myself an architect until I pass my exams, which I am beginning to believe I never will.

I console myself with dreams of these things. Someday I’ll move somewhere with more Buddhists and I’ll join a sangha and sit every week. Someday I’ll write a book and find a publisher. Someday I’ll build a really awesome building that I’ll be able to look on with a sense of pride and accomplishment. Someday…there’s no such thing.

But I don’t really think it matters. I heard a quote once: “Better to write for oneself and have no public than write for the public and have no self.” From a Buddhist perspective it is quite a peculiar turn of phrase. What do we strive for if not “no-self?” Who do you write for if you have neither self nor public? That could be a koan, but if it is, I have yet to riddle it out. (Though, personally, I am of the opinion that koans don’t actually have answers.)

Ironically, I don’t believe I’ll ever be a Writer or an Architect, at least not properly, not as my sole profession. I may someday soon add Teacher or Professor to that list. I only get to be a Buddhist because that seems to lack any sort of formal qualifications. Because I feel called to these three things I may not end up doing any of them. Instead I’ll weave my “rich life,” my “middle way” and always wonder what Someday will look like.

I’m not complaining mind you; that’s just samsara and I knew what I was getting when I signed on.

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