Career Calling

April 4, 2010

Sabbath, April 4, 2010

Filed under: Sabbath — claycerny @ 9:55 pm
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[“Sabbath” is Career Calling’s Sunday feature that explores how work impacts all aspects of our lives.]

The Work of Faith

Whether or not one is religious, Easter is a good day to think about faith – and how it works in our lives.  For many people, religious faith defines their lives.  All of us – even atheists – use faith as a tool in the work of our lives. 

In the most simple definition, faith is the act of accepting something without evidence or certainty. In personal and professional relationships, we often act in faith that our partners will do the right thing.  We don’t know what challenges or opportunities the future will put before us.  The company that was home for 20 years surprises us with a pink slip.  The husband or wife who would never cheat is caught in an affair.  The can’t miss investment misses. 

Faith disappoints as often, maybe more often, than it rewards.  Even so, we can’t live without it.  John Lennon said, “Life happens while we’re busy making plans.”  The plans are what we hope will happen.  We adjust to the disappointments and move on.  Sometimes, the sadness is too deep and faith turns to anger or despair.  We’ve all met people who can’t let go of the hurt.  At it’s deepest level, this sorrow manifests itself in suicide, which Albert Camus called, “an act of the heart,” the heart that has lost hope.

About a year ago, all of the wise people told us the sky was falling.  We were entering a second Great Depression.  So far, these wise people have been wrong.  GDP is positive, the stock market is back at pre-crisis level, and this month there was finally a net gain in jobs.  During the real Great Depression, FDR challenged American with the words, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”  Fear is faith turned inside out.  Rather than believing things will turn out well, we convince ourselves that the worst will happen.  The media loves to play on fear and bad news.  It’s an easy story to tell – and sell.  Believing in something or someone is much harder because it requires strength to weather the disappointment and the hard times.

The most important person we need to have faith in is ourselves.  Can I do this?  Am I good enough?  Do I deserve this?  We all ask these questions.  Winners are the people who find the strength to answer themselves with a firm, “Yes.”  They fail, and they fall – still they get up and push forward.  Their strength is based on a confidence in themselves and the future. 

The late Studs Terkel is a great example of a person who kept faith in himself and the world.  Studs was a leading personality in TV’s early years.  Then disaster struck.  Terkel was caught up in the communist witch hunts of the 1950s and blacklisted from TV.  He returned to Chicago and spent many years on the radio, conducting intelligent, probing interviews with artists, thinkers, and politicians.  In the 1960s, he began to write books based on interviews with normal Americans.  Fame found him again.  He won the Pulitzer Prize and was honored as man of letters.  Terkel died recently, having lived into his nineties.  He never stopped writing, and told interviewers that he wanted this line written on his tombstone:  “Curiosity did not kill this cat.”

Terkel’s spirit and life embody what Emerson called “self-reliance.”  This virtue in not simply the ability to take care of yourself, rugged individualism.  It is more deeply a self-understanding that has its roots in faith in something bigger than the individual.  Each of us has the genius and spirit needed to live a happy life.  It’s not a matter of luck.  It starts with work – and faith.

As Tavis Smiley says, “Keep the Faith.”

Sunday Extras:

Here are some links to material about Studs Terkel.

The Chicago History Museum’s Site on Studs Terkel

A video of Studs Terkel being interviewed by William F. Buckley

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