Of Vocations and Computer Viruses

English: mean cartoon virus
English: mean cartoon virus (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Friday afternoon I finished the last chapter of my new book for Liguori. I copied the text and clicked over to my email…and paused. I was so sleepy. Nicholas had been up twice a night for almost a week with nosebleeds, and I was worn out. In the last two days of writing, I’d had that shivery, awestruck sensation of watching the Spirit work, a sense that comes to writers sometimes, but not always: Wow…this is good. I mean, really good. And as I sat there, wanting nothing more than to send the chapter and call this major project finished, I hesitated. I didn’t want to end on a shoddy note, just to have it done before the work week ended.

Give it a day or two, and read it over one last time.

Saturday afternoon, I was standing behind the computer desk filing papers when Internet Explorer abruptly shut down. I clicked it open again and a train of “System error” tiles cascaded across the screen, and the computer locked up.

In the wake of a virus that takes one offline for three days, one is supposed to wax eloquent on a) the mixed blessing of technology, b) an unwanted break that the good Lord knew was needed, and c) being grateful for the return of ordinary life (with proper emphasis on applying lessons a and b as one moves forward).

Instead, I find myself wondering at the sheer venom, poorly-applied intellect and misdirected creativity displayed by whoever created the virus and spyware the tech guy found on our computer. Last night Christian and I finished watching The Untouchables, and I thought the same thing about Al Capone. Did you know he was 31 when he was arrested? He built a vast, flourishing empire by the time most of us are still floundering to find ourselves. Just imagine what he could have done if he had directed his energy toward something productive. God has a plan for each of us–what was Al Capone’s?

This line of thought prompts me to check in on my own calling. In this case, I’m thinking about my professional vocation rather than my personal one. For a long time I’ve been gnashing my teeth at the constraints which prevent me from investing the time needed to break into the secular magazine market. There’s a C.S. Lewis quote I’ve always found inspiring:

“What we want is not more little books about Christianity, but more little books by Christians on other subjects–with their Christianity latent.”

I really want to impact the world by bringing a Christian world view (but not Christian language) to bear on ordinary subjects, to (attempt to) shift the tenor of public discourse by offering a different take on issues. But I’m starting to think I’m being led along a different path, one that sticks largely to the Catholic market. My writing tends to be very do-oriented, and as I said on Facebook the other day, ” When you’re doing religious writing, it’s like a nonstop examination of conscience.” If it’s making me squirm, if it’s making me constantly re-evaluate my life in the light of the call to holiness, then surely it’s going to do the same for others. And if something I write causes people to live their faith, to wrestle with the uncertainties instead of being perfunctory and dismissive, clinging to oversimplified versions of faith and life…

I don’t know, that could change the world, don’t you think?