Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Why do you do it?

Struck by this entry on Nick Page's blog, on what motivates him to write:

Some years ago I read an excellent history of the Albigensian Crusade, where the church routinely lied to and slaughtered thousands of Heretics. I finished the book in an utter fury and was spluttering about it to Claire.‘When did this happen?’ she asked.‘Around 1250,’ I replied. There was a pause.‘Shouldn’t you have got over it by now?’ she said.

But no, we shouldn’t get over these things. I’ve come, more and more, to realise that it is often anger of various degrees that fuels my writing. Whether this is entirely a good thing, I don’t know. I mean, I’m not in a frothing rage all the time, I rarely lose my temper, but I do spend a lot of time grumpily snapping at the TV while my children laugh at me. At it’s best it’s a righteous anger, which is, I hope, expressed reasonably. At its worst I know I descend into tub-thumping ranting.

But you’ve got to be fuelled by something haven’t you?

Which has made me think about what fuels me. I've been a vicar, or at least been a 'rev', for 12 years. I'm looking forward to a sabbatical next year, but I'm still enjoying it, and for dozens of reasons sense that I'm in the right place and doing the right thing (as far as any sinner can be in the right place and doing the right thing).

But why? There's probably a mixture of self and vocation. I'm motivated/driven by a whole spaghetti bowl of things:
a) competitiveness. I like to win/succeed/do things well. Ask the guys I play 5-a-side with on a Sunday evening. I often have to drag myself off the sofa after a demanding day, but stick a ball and a goal (or set of stumps) in front of me, and it's surprising how quickly I start moving. Some of that's about hitting targets, achieving something, enjoying not just the game but the result.

b) Making a difference. That's always been a bit of my DNA, to want to live a life that leaves some kind of a mark, and in a good way. The chance to do/say/support/encourage things that make a positive difference to people's lives, and to their relationship with God, is what gets me out of bed in the morning. The flip side of this is that I'm sometimes too hasty to fix things, or to say things, or to wade into a discussion, when it would be better to keep my tentacles to myself.

c) Frustration. I'm both a perfectionist (though have calmed down a lot on that front) and an optimist. Both of those drives say 'things could be better than this'. So I'm very rarely content with how things are. That can be infuriating and very wearing for people around me, so I have to be careful to have a balance of consolidating and kick-starting. It's also hard work to never be satisfied, and I hope I'm learning to say 'that's ok, and it's ok that it's ok'.

d) Fun: one of my mentors sayings is 'follow the fun'. Ultimately any job or responsibility that's a cause of stress and sadness is going to suck the life out of you. I'm blessed in that, because my post was a new one 4 years ago, there wasn't a massive inherited workload, so there's been the chance to develop bits of work which I already felt motivated and passionate about. When I'm doing wedding preparation I pause at the first line of the opening prayer: "God of wonder and of joy" and explain that those are my two guiding stars for the marriage service itself. It's both a holy moment, and a joyful celebration. From what people say to me after weddings and baptisms, it's clear that fun and joy aren't emotions that they readily associate with church services. That's really sad. I love God, I love what I do, and if that sense of joy and life doesn't show itself and express itself then it really is time to go and have a long lie down.

e) Being me. Just before ordination I had a very strong sense of being ordained and called by God as myself, rather than being asked to be someone else, some kind of identikit clergyman. I'm not a great fan of 'expressing yourself', as that's become something of a modern day idol, but it's a lot easier to give 100% to something if you're giving 100% of yourself, rather than 100% of something you're not. There are still lots of things that take me out of my comfort zone - funerals particularly - but I hope that there isn't much to choose between the David Keen with his dog collar on, and the same guy with the collar off.

But enough about me (something slightly ironic about writing that phrase on my own blog!). What motivates you?

1 comment:

  1. Nothing much, I'm a cynical gen-Xer. Oops, wrong blog post :P