Monday, April 13, 2015


"Sunrise and an Olive Tree"
- At the Desert Retreat House -

I found an article in this morning's edition of the New York Times to be very insightful as columnist David Brooks reflected on what he called, The Moral Bucket List:

There are two sets of virtues, 
the resume virtues and the eulogy virtues.
The resume virtues are the skills you bring to the marketplace.
The eulogy virtues are the ones talked about at your funeral -
whether you were kind, brave, honest, faithful, and capable of deep love. 

The article went on to say that many of us spend the vast majority of our time cultivating our resume virtues with far less focus on what may be said of us in a eulogy at our funeral--the problem is that the eulogy virtues are ultimately what bring us the greatest happiness and deepest peace while we are still alive. We would do well to cultivate those "eulogy virtues" - they should get top priority on our moral bucket list. 

As I think about it I guess that I have spent most of my adult life writing a resume in one form or another -  always looking for that next and bigger opportunity, thinking about all those skills and experiences that qualify me for it, figuring out what I might yet have to do to hone my talents and tailor my experience so that I could best climb the proverbial ladder of success.

I am reminded of something Thomas Merton once said:

People may spend their whole life climbing the ladder of success, only to find that, 
once they reach the top, the ladder is leaning against the wrong wall.

At my funeral my guess is that, if someone gives a eulogy, they probably aren't to going to praise my computer skills or organizational abilities. Hopefully I will have done enough with my life  to be remembered for my deep love.

In this morning's article, the author offered this wise insight:

Commencement speakers are always telling young people to follow their passions.
Be true to yourself.
This is a vision of life that begins with self and ends with self.
But people on the road to inner light do not find their vocations by asking,
what do I want from life?
They ask,
what is life asking of me?
How can I match my intrinsic talents with the world's greatest needs?

I was really struck by that word "vocation" - we hear a lot about careers, we prepare resumes, and endlessly engage in job searches, but there seems to be little if any talk about a "vocation." 

Some people may say that a vocation is what God is calling you to do with your life. While that may be the case, I think a vocation is the stuff we do in life that helps us to develop those "eulogy virtues."

Educator and spiritual teacher, Parker Palmer, once defied a vocation as

That place in life where your deepest gladness and the world's deepest hunger meets.

As I reflect on it, I don't actually think that a job, career or even one's life-long work is necessary that  place in life that is a "vocation" - sometimes a job is just a job.  Even to this very day when I am no longer in the business of building my career, I am still very much involved in finding and living into my vocation in life. 

Whenever I am in touch with a passion that pulls me outside my own self and allows me to extend my talents, my skills and my gifts for the good of others, I am in a place of vocation. Every day I am called to live out this vocation- to be in touch with those places of my deepest gladness and to be aware of the hunger in my world that can be filled by that gladness. 

It's the beginning of a new day and a new week- what a great opportunity to work on my moral bucket list -to develop my "eulogy virtues" by the way I live my life today. 

Listen to my podcast:"Desert Wisdom"


  1. another great thought piece. For me, the challenge there is to find a way of being in the world as a friend of all, yet in a way that feels grounded substantially in my own gifts...a more subtle part of myself that wasn't particularly nurtured in my earlier llife.... to see what is still growing there after a lifetime of being ignored. Anyhow, thanks for the post. Most helpful