Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Reading Life Backward

Psychologist James Hillman, who wrote the 1997 best-selling book The Soul's Code: In Search of Character and Calling, speaks about "reading life backward." The intense study of a lifetime of choices and events, convictions, passions--the polar emotions of love and hate and everything in between that has given texture and shading to our lives. He calls these "symptoms" and urges people to use the study of these to discover the calling of your life. The one thing you're meant to be.

While others emphasize growth and nurture philosophy in determining the outcome of our lives and what we ultimately choose to give the world, Hillman adopts an "acorn theory of the soul." Like an acorn holds the pattern for an oak, he believes each individual owns, within himself, each soul's unique potential from the beginning.

He urges everyone to look back on their lives for clues to their calling. Trials, illness, accidents, obsessions and aversions all hold clues, when looked at through a larger scope of time passed, take on a more impactful stamp on our souls. It is a philosophy similar to an out-of-body experience, where the result is an increased sensitivity to the signs of our lives. A life lived with intention and awareness.

Do you believe our calling is a "seed" within our soul at birth we spend a lifetime trying to discover, or that the path of our lives determines our contributions to the world?


Marilyn Brant said...

You ask a great question and, though I haven't yet read this book, I'm certainly intrigued by it now.

But, going just on instinct, my first thought is that we do have seeds--plural--within our soul, which we attempt to discover through our lifetime. Not necessarily one path, but a few possibilities, often linked, that we're drawn to (the nature aspect). And, when we look back on our lives and on the influences others had upon us (nurture), we can find patterns emerging that highlight this small cluster of potential
"callings." So, what we choose is both purely ours yet, also, tempered by our environment.

Just a theory... :-)

Sandra Ferguson said...

Crimney, Laura, another deep thought. I'm just trying to figure out 4th grade English.

Okay, really, do I believe that we're destined to become this end product or a happenstance of concidences. I vote for the first.
I don't think God leaves anything to chance, even if we do have free will. All the tools are there, if we only slow down long enough to appreciate them and put them to use.

Come by and visit my crazy antics of turning 40.

Andrea Geist said...

Laura, I love when you talk philosophy (and physics.)

I believe the path we make in our live determines our contributions.

And yes, I should live my life with intention, awareness and compassion.