Vocation (Latin: vocātiō "a call, summons") refers to an occupation to which individuals are especially drawn or for which they are well suited, trained, or qualified. Though now often used in non-religious contexts, the meanings of the term originated in the religious summonings of Christianity.
- God put the rainbow in the clouds, not just in the sky… It is wise to realize we already have rainbows in our clouds, or we wouldn't be here. If the rainbow is in the clouds, then in the worst of time, there is the possibility of seeing hope … We can say "I can be a rainbow in the cloud for someone yet to be." That may be our calling.
- Maya Angelou, Harrisburg Forum (30 November 2001)
- Cavafy's attitude toward the poetic vocation is an aristocratic one. His poets do not think of themselves as persons of great public importance and entitled to universal homage, but, rather, as citizens of a small republic in which one is judged by one's peers and the standard of judgment is strict.
- W. H. Auden, in "C. P. Cavafy," in Forewords and Afterwords (1973)
- Discipline, so far as it exists, is not of the humanistic or the religious type, but of the kind that one gets in training for a vocation or a specialty. The standards of a genuinely liberal education, as they have been understood, more or less from the time of Aristotle, are being progressively undermined by the utilitarians and the sentimentalists.
- Irving Babbitt, in "What I Believe" (1930); published in, Irving Babbitt : Representative Writings (1981), p. 16
- The Church does not have technical solutions to offer and does not claim "to interfere in any way in the politics of States." She does, however, have a mission of truth to accomplish, in every time and circumstance, for a society that is attuned to man, to his dignity, to his vocation.
- A man can't ask for much more than the chance to make a difference in his chosen field of work. Politics is my vocation. I'm forever grateful for the opportunity to contribute to this great country of ours. I know I am a better person for it.
- Jean Chrétien, in Straight From The Heart (1985), Preface, p. 10
- My ultimate vocation in life is to be an irritant, someone who disrupts the daily drag of life just enough to leave the victim thinking there's maybe more to it all than the mere hum-drum quality of existence.
- There are not a few among the disciples of charity who require, in their vocation, scarcely less excitement than the votaries of pleasure in theirs.
- To believe that I could, at twenty-three, sacrifice history and culture for "the Absolute" was further proof that I had not understood India. My vocation was culture, not sainthood.
- Mircea Eliade, as quoted in Myth and Religion in Mircea Eliade (2002) by Douglas Allen, p. 216
- The author of Biographia Literaria was already a ruined man. Sometimes, however, to be a "ruined man" is itself a vocation.
- Faith lived in the incognito is one which is located outside the criticism coming from society, from politics, from history, for the very reason that it has itself the vocation to be a source of criticism. It is faith (lived in the incognito) which triggers the issues for the others, which causes everything seemingly established to be placed in doubt, which drives a wedge into the world of false assurances.
- Jacques Ellul, in L'espérance oubliée (1972) [Hope in Time of Abandonment] translated by C. Edward Hopkin (1973)
- “What is the absolute vocation of Man?”— i.e. of Man considered simply as man, according to the mere abstract idea of Humanity; isolated and without any relation which is not necessarily included in the idea of himself? … all philosophy, all human thought and teaching, all your studies, especially all that I shall address to you, can tend to nothing else than to the answering of these questions, and particularly of the last and highest of them, What is the absolute vocation of Man? and what are the means by which he may most surely fulfil it?
- I may here, in passing, and for the sake of illustration merely, express the fundamental principle of morality in the following formula: “So act that thou mayest look upon the dictate of thy will as an eternal law to thyself.”
The ultimate vocation of every finite, rational being is thus absolute unity, constant identity, perfect harmony with himself.
- Johann Gottlieb Fichte, in The Vocation of the Scholar (1794), Lecture I : The Absolute Vocation OF Man
- I have to speak as a Scholar, before future Scholars, of the Scholar’s vocation. I must examine the subject to its foundation; exhaust it, if I can; hold back nothing in my representation of the truth. And if I discover for the Scholar a vocation most honourable, most lofty, and distinguished above that of all other classes of men, how is it possible for me to lay it before you without exceeding the limits of modest expression, without seeming to undervalue other vocations, without being apparently blinded by self-conceit? But I speak as a philosopher, whose duty it is strictly to define all his ideas. I cannot exclude this idea from the system of which it is a necessary part. I dare not keep back any part of the truth which I recognise. It still remains true; and modesty itself is subordinate to it: — it is a false modesty which is violated by truth.
- Johann Gottlieb Fichte, in The Vocation of the Scholar (1794), Lecture IV : The Vocation of the Scholar
- There are many tendencies and powers in man, and it is the vocation of each individual to cultivate all his powers, so far as he is able to do so.
- Johann Gottlieb Fichte, in The Vocation of the Scholar (1794), Lecture IV : The Vocation of the Scholar
- The true vocation of the Scholar; the most widely extended survey of the actual advancement of the human race in general, and the steadfast promotion of that advancement.
- I love the mystics; Francis also was in many aspects of his life, but I do not think I have the vocation — and then we must understand the deep meaning of that word. The mystic manages to strip himself of action, of facts, objectives and even the pastoral mission and rises until he reaches communion with the Beatitudes. Brief moments but which fill an entire life.
- Pope Francis, interviewed in "How the Church will change" by Eugenio Scalfari in La Repubblica (1 October 2013), as translated from Italian to English by Kathryn Wallace
- But yield who will to their separation,
My object in living is to unite
My avocation and my vocation
As my two eyes make one in sight.
Only where love and need are one,
And the work is play for mortal stakes,
Is the deed ever really done
For heaven and the future's sakes.
- Robert Frost, in "Two Tramps in Mud Time" (1936), st. 9
- Mr. George P. Hanley. Former vocation: jerk. Present vocation: genie. George P. Hanley, a most ordinary man whom life treated without deference, honor or success, but a man wise enough to decide on a most extraordinary wish that makes him the contented, permanent master of his own altruistic Twilight Zone.
- I am a great artist and I know it. It's because of what I am that I have endured so much suffering, so as to pursue my vocation, otherwise I would consider myself a rogue — which is what many people think I am, for that matter.
- Paul Gauguin, in a letter to his wife, Mette (March 1892), as published in The Writings of a Savage (1990), translated by Eleanor Levieux, p. 53
- We understood that our vocation, our true vocation, was to move for eternity along the roads and seas of the world. Always curious, looking into everything that came before our eyes, sniffing out each corner but only very faintly – not setting down roots in any land or staying long enough to see the substratum of things; the outer limits would suffice.
- The demand for equal rights in every vocation of life is just and fair; but, after all, the most vital right is the right to love and be loved. Indeed, if partial emancipation is to become a complete and true emancipation of woman, it will have to do away with the ridiculous notion that to be loved, to be sweetheart and mother, is synonymous with being slave or subordinate.
- Emma Goldman, in "The Tragedy of Woman's Emancipation" (1906)
- There can be no doubt that distrust of words is less harmful than unwarranted trust in them. Besides, to distrust words, and indict them for the horrors that might slumber unobtrusively within them — isn't this, after all, the true vocation of the intellectual?
- Václav Havel, speech accepting a peace prize (October 1989), as quoted in The Independent, London (9 December 1989)
- Preaching has always been a chancy vocation, but in the days of Peter's ministry it was as chancy as that of a Marine platoon sergeant.
- Each man had only one genuine vocation — to find the way to himself.
- Hermann Hesse, in Demian: The Story of Emil Sinclair's Youth (1919), first published under the pseudonym "Emil Sinclair"
- Those who say life is worth living at any price have already written for themselves an epitaph of infamy, for there is no cause and no person they will not betray to stay alive. Man's vocation should be the use of the arts of intelligence in behalf of human freedom.
- Sidney Hook, in Out of Step (1985)
- Man is called to a fullness of life which far exceeds the dimensions of his earthly existence, because it consists in sharing the very life of God. The loftiness of this supernatural vocation reveals the greatness and the inestimable value of human life even in its temporal phase.
- Pope John Paul II, in Evangelium vitae (25 March 1995)
- Some of us who have already begun to break the silence of the night have found that the calling to speak is often a vocation of agony, but we must speak. We must speak with all the humility that is appropriate to our limited vision, but we must speak.
- Martin Luther King, Jr., in "Beyond Vietnam" a speech at Riverside Church in New York City (4 April 1967)
- I must be true to my conviction that I share with all men the calling to be a son of the living God. Beyond the calling of race or nation or creed is this vocation of sonship and brotherhood, and because I believe that the Father is deeply concerned especially for his suffering and helpless and outcast children, I come tonight to speak for them.
- Martin Luther King, Jr., in "Beyond Vietnam" a speech at Riverside Church in New York City (4 April 1967)
- People call me an "actor". What's that? In any case, it has nothing to do with the shit that people have always blabbered about it. It's neither a vocation nor a profession — although it's how I earn my living. But then so does the two-headed freak at the carnival. It's something you have to try and live with — until you learn how to free yourself. It has nothing to do with nonesense like "talent," and it's nothing to be conceited or proud of.
- Klaus Kinski, in Kinski Uncut : The Autobiography of Klaus Kinski (1996), p. 310
- What comes is Judgment: happy are those whom it finds labouring in their vocations, whether they were merely going out to feed the pigs or laying good plans to deliver humanity a hundred years hence from some great evil. The curtain has indeed now fallen. Those pigs will never in fact be fed, the great campaign against White Slavery or Governmental Tyranny will never in fact proceed to victory. No matter; you were at your post when the Inspection came.
- C. S. Lewis, in "The World's Last Night", first published as "The Christian Hope — Its Meaning for Today" in Religion in Life (Winter 1952)
- The assertion that "all men are created equal" was of no practical use in effecting our separation from Great Britain; and it was placed in the Declaration, nor for that, but for future use. Its authors meant it to be, thank God, it is now proving itself, a stumbling block to those who in after times might seek to turn a free people back into the hateful paths of despotism. They knew the proneness of prosperity to breed tyrants, and they meant when such should re-appear in this fair land and commence their vocation they should find left for them at least one hard nut to crack.
- I think that one of the duties of a philosopher, if he shows himself worthy of his vocation today, is to attack quite directly those dissimulating forces which are all working toward what might be called the neutralization of the past; and whose conjoint effect consists in arousing in contemporary man a feeling of what I should like to call insulation in time.
- Gabriel Marcel, in Man Against Mass Society (1952), p. 39
- I have heard from persons in pursuits different from yours — from the lawyer, from the congressman, from the editor, not to mention others, each, with a strange kind of melancholy vanity, claiming for his vocation the distinction of affording the surest inlets to the conviction that man is no better than he should be. All of which testimony, if reliable, would, by mutual corroboration, justify some disturbance in a good man's mind.
- A woman dedicates herself to the vocation of her husband; she fills up and performs the subordinate parts in it. But if she has any destiny, any vocation of her own, she must renounce it, in nine cases out of ten.
- Florence Nightingale, in Cassandra (1860)
- Birds were singing everywhere. The underbrush was full of migrating warblers. That evening I had a long talk with the novice master. I explained to him that I found myself adapted to the monastic life. There was nothing whatever about it that I didn’t like. I had felt no hardships but had enjoyed every minute of it, more than anything I had ever experienced. But I had no vocation whatsoever. Father Anderson was deeply moved and assured me that he understood me perfectly and respected my decision. “I think, Kenneth,” he said, “this experience will turn out to be more valuable to you than you can know now. Let’s hope it will always provide a memory which will be a focus and stable foundation for all your later life.” And so it was. … The liturgical life of the Church moved me because it echoes the most ancient responses to the turning of the year and the changing seasons, and the rhythms of animal and human life. For me the Sacraments transfigured the rites of passage, the physical facts of the human condition — birth, adolescence, sexual intercourse, vocation, sickness and death, communion, penance. Catholicism still provides a structure of acts, individual and at the same time communal, physical responses to life.
- Where the lines of political division are vertical, the men of each occupation and of every social standing separating according to their vocations and principles, the result is healthy and normal. Just so far, however, as the lines are drawn horizontally, the result is unhealthy, and in the long run disastrous, for such a division means that men are pitted against one another in accordance with the blind and selfish interests of the moment.
- It isn’t at all a matter of being optimistic, but rather of continuing to have faith in the ongoing and literally unending process of emancipation and enlightenment that, in my opinion, frames and gives direction to the intellectual vocation.
- Edward Said, in Preface to 25th anniversary edition of Orientalism (1994), p. xv
- It is not society's fault that most men seem to miss their vocation. Most men have no vocation.
- George Santayana, in The Life of Reason (1905-1906), Vol. II : Reason in Society, Ch. IV: The Aristocratic Ideal
- ’T is my vocation, Hal; ’t is no sin for a man to labour in his vocation.
- The test of a vocation is the love of the drudgery it involves.
- Logan Pearsall Smith, in Afterthoughts (1931), Art and Letters.
- Every historian loves the past or should do. If not, he has mistaken his vocation; but it is a short step from loving the past to regretting that it has ever changed. Conservatism is our greatest trade-risk; and we run psychoanalysts close in the belief that the only "normal" people are those who cause no trouble either to themselves or anybody else.
- A. J. P. Taylor, in "The Radical Tradition : Fox, Paine, and Cobbett", in The Trouble Makers: Dissent over Foreign Policy, 1792-1939 (1957), p. 14
- The message of the New Testament is poetry. Christ was a poet, the New Testament is metaphor, the Resurrection is a metaphor; and I feel perfectly within my rights in approaching my whole vocation as priest and preacher as one who is to present poetry; and when I preach poetry I am preaching Christianity, and when one discusses Christianity one is discussing poetry in its imaginative aspects. … My work as a poet has to deal with the presentation of imaginative truth.
- R. S. Thomas, in R. S. Thomas : Priest and Poet, BBC TV (2 April 1972)
- The vocation of every man and woman is to serve other people.
- Leo Tolstoy, in What Is To Be Done? (1886) Chap. XL, as translated in The Novels and Other Works of Lyof N. Tolstoï (1902) edited by Nathan Haskell Dole, p. 281
- Now nuns have blended into everybody else or else faded away. Vocations drying up, nobody wants to be selfless any more, everybody wants their fun. No more nuns, no more rabbis. No more good people, waiting to haver their fun in the afterlife. The thing about the afterlife, it kept this life within bounds somehow, like the Russians. Now there's just Japan, and technology, and the profit motive, and getting all you can while you can.
- John Updike, in Rabbit at Rest (1990)
- The home in an industrial society is chiefly a dormitory, and the father does not work there, with the result that wife and children have no part in his vocation. He is just a character who brings in money, and after working hours he is supposed to forget about his job and have fun. Novels, magazines, television, and popular cartoons therefore portray "Dad" as an incompetent clown. And the image has some truth in it because Dad has fallen for the hoax that work is simply something you do to make money, and with money you can get anything you want.
- Alan Watts, in The Book on the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are (1966), p. 111
- That curious modern hypostatization “service” is often called in to substitute for the now incomprehensible doctrine of vocation. It tries to secure subordination by hypothesizing something larger than the self, which turns out, however, to be only a multitude of selfish selves. The familiar change from quality to quantity may again be noted; one serves not the higher part of the self (this entails hierarchy) … but merely consumer demand. And who admires those at the top of a hierarchy of consumption? Man as a consuming animal is thus seen to be not enough.
- Richard Weaver, in Ideas Have Consequences ( 1948), p. 77
- Politics, just as economic pursuits, may be a man's avocation or his vocation. One may engage in politics, and hence seek to influence the distribution of power within and between political structures, as an 'occasional' politician. We are all 'occasional' politicians when we cast our ballot or consummate a similar expression of intention, such as applauding or protesting in a 'political' meeting, or delivering a 'political' speech, etc. The whole relation of many people to politics is restricted to this.
- Active asceticism operates within the world; rationally active asceticism, in mastering the world, seeks to tame what is creatural and wicked through work in a worldly "vocation" (inner-worldly asceticism). Such asceticism contrasts radically with mysticism, if the latter draws the full conclusion of fleeing from the world (contemplative flight from the world). The contrast is tempered, however, if active asceticism confines itself to keeping down and to overcoming creatural wickedness in the actor's own nature. For then it enhances the concentration on the firmly established God-willed and active redemptory accomplishments to the point of avoiding any action in the orders of the world (asceticist flight from the world). Thereby active asceticism in external bearing comes close to contemplative flight from the world. The contrast between asceticism and mysticism is also tempered if the contemplative mystic does not draw the conclusion that he should flee from the world, but, like the inner-worldly asceticist, remain in the orders of the world (inner-worldly mysticism).
In both cases the contrast can actually disappear in practice and some combination of both forms of the quest for salvation may occur. But the contrast may continue to exist even under the veil of external similarity. For the true mystic the principle continues to hold: the creature must be silent so that God may speak.
- Max Weber, in The Rejection of the World and Theodicy], From Max Weber : Essays in Sociology (1946), as translated by Hans Heinrich Gerth and Charles Wright Mills
- In a revolutionary age talk of equality may well have represented a passion to provide full human dignity to those who had previously been denied it by systems of political and economic domination; but in the present age it softens the spiritual requirements that are an essential ingredient in human dignity. Thus the slogans of equality serve not so much to elevate individuals to the dignity of being human as to free them from the responsibility of rising to this vocation.
- Merold Westphal, in Kierkegaard’s Critique of Reason and Society (1992)
- Nothing is so rare as to see misfortune fairly portrayed; the tendency is either to treat the unfortunate person as though catastrophe were his natural vocation, or to ignore the effects of misfortune on the soul, to assume, that is, that the soul can suffer and remain unmarked by it, can fail, in fact, to be recast in misfortune's image.
- Simone Weil, in The Iliad or The Poem of Force (1940-1941), p. 193
- Wrongly or rightly you think that I have a right to the name of Christian. I assure you that when in speaking of my childhood and youth I use the words vocation, obedience, spirit of poverty, purity, acceptance, love of one's neighbor, and other expressions of the same kind, I am giving them the exact signification they have for me now. Yet I was brought up by my parents and my brother in a complete agnosticism, and I never made the slightest effort to depart from it; I never had the slightest desire to do so, quite rightly, I think.
- Simone Weil, in her last letter to Father Joseph-Marie Perrin, from a refugee camp in Casablanca (26 May 1942), as translated in The Simone Weil Reader (1957) edited by George A. Panichas, p. 111