Monday, September 16, 2019

Why Do I "Teach"? What Keeps Me Motivated?

In a recent post ("On My Work" - see here) I considered the status of my "work," my temporal vocation, my ongoing engagement in academic life and the teaching profession.

The exercise of my profession is hindered and limited by disability, but it remains important to me. The energy that I have is focused on doing what I can to fulfill the task I took up 25 years ago (after many years spent in preparation for it). Forced now to live "in retirement" (and often in bed), I can't work a job nor predict how I will feel from day to day. This is frustrating, and yet I am determined to do what I can and to "keep going."

Why do I teach? For that matter, why do I study, why do I try to learn, to understand reality? What is the motivation that sustains it?

I have always pondered the great questions of life, the mysteries of being human, and the Mystery who holds us and all things in existence and calls our hearts to seek the "ever-greater," the "Infinite." I also wanted to help others on this path.

I am a Catholic Christian who has been drawn into a relationship with God through Jesus Christ in the Church. By calling and circumstances, I carry out my human vocation with a more explicit and direct service to my brothers and sisters in Christ. I also find through faith an openness to every person, a passion for the humanity of every person and a light that illuminates the whole of reality. Faith requires me to recognize the preciousness of all human things and all of creation, and to find hope and meaning in every circumstance.

Hope searches for truth, goodness, and beauty wherever they can be found, and perseveres even in suffering and in the endurance of evil and violence. The vitality of hope is sustained by a loving adherence to the One who is Love, who has endured all things and reveals Love's infinite mystery by "being-with-us" to the end, beyond our limits and even our rejection of Love and our struggle against it. ("Love your enemies..." "Father, forgive them...")

I studied theology and also philosophy and history, and I remain a professor ("emeritus") at a university that takes a Christocentric, "Catholic" integrated humanities approach to learning. As I said before, health problems restrict me from active teaching (which I miss a lot), but I'm engaged in research, writing, and creative projects in various ways, depending on my fluctuating condition.

Notwithstanding the many possibilities new media technology has opened up for connecting with people, I often feel very lonely. (This is a form of suffering - and I wrote a whole book about suffering and its value known through the eyes of faith, which makes a difference even to people like me who are weak in faith and low on patience.)

I often feel very lonely.

However, it gives a certain kind of perspective. So many people are lonely, or confused, or stressed out. We are desperately searching for solutions to our problems and/or distractions and ways to kill the pain. I certainly do plenty of this, but it's never adequate to escape the desire that burns in me to share so many things that I have learned and continue to learn.

It's not just my big ego (though that's part of it, of course - my life is such a mess). I don't know if I ever have a perfect, pure intention for anything I do. I spend my days subconsciously (sometimes even consciously) trying to make deals with God. I'm definitely a sinner, but the Lord has still entrusted me with a mission, and it continues to draw me through these days, as it has since my youth.

This mission has to do with communicating what I "see and hear" along the whole journey of this life, whatever experience and understanding I gain about what it means to be human. I suppose this is what being "a humanities teacher" is all about. And how or when this communication "succeeds" is not something I can measure in the brief scope of my own time in this world.

I'm called to be faithful to this vocation, even if I feel like I'm not saying it very well, or no one is listening, and the hairs of my beard just grow whiter as the days pass by. I'm called to be faithful. So I pray for the grace to keep trying, and doing what I can, entrusting the fruition to God.