Big Vocations

Oh the places you will go. THE PLACES YOU’LL GO! You’ll be on your way up! You’ll be seeing great sights!

The Dr. Seuss book went. The selection convinces the reader how he would eventually land in great places and do big things like learning to move mountains. It was one of the earliest and most important books in my life. Early on, it had imprinted in me a life-long dream, which would eventually grow into a frustration.

I grew with this insatiable need for achievement.

In elementary, my parents and teachers got me into all sorts of contests. Almost every year, I joined contests, pitting me against the most talented and smartest of my batch. I remember, with reluctance, representing my class for spelling, elocution and even art competitions. I’ve been competing with my peers, but sadly, never the first. It just strengthened my thirst.

High school was yet another venue for exploring the drive. I joined a theatre group, the most difficult organization in our school. Firstly because I was so sold by its thrust – the use of theatrics as a humanizing tool – and secondly, so that I could prove something to myself and to my peers. I devoted my entire high school stay to the organization.

My commitment to such a premiere group somehow sated my appetite. I remember how our much loved moderator promised me that I would be a “big deal” in life after high school. These were his last words for me during graduation. They comforted me greatly, and set high expectationsfor college life – to the investment that would crown the work my life, so far at least, had been building up to now.

Nearly three years later, after joining half a dozen organizations and having almost finished my college stay, I am not yet the big deal I wanted to be. My grades were good, and I had made some concrete investments in my extra-curricular. But I haven’t made that dent – a dramatic and noticeable contribution to my environment.

When a certain political party ap proached me to run under them for student council, I was thrilled. It seemed like an instant ticket, one of my last, as my college days were numbered, to greatness. I mean, what could be bigger than politics? Aside from that, it was a concrete opportunity to serve my own college in a recognizable and institutional manner, something I had always wanted to do. Immediately, the image of me in distinguished semi-formal, campaigning from room to room, declaring our party’s plans of action and stands on issues, ran before my eyes. And I would be lying if I said the vision didn’t excite me.

I told them I would give it some thought. And for nearly one whole month, I mulled over it. The offer seriously made me think. And if I wasn’t thinking about it, it would be looming in my consciousness. The process of making the decision was so unexpectedly tormenting that it was what actually made me realize that maybe I wasn’t ready for such an endeavor. I realized that politics was never simple nor easy. It wouldn’t be the instant path to greatness that I had pined for.

Sociologist Max Weber said that politics has to be taken as a vocation. Because politics is to be understood as the overwhelming desire to effect change in society. He saw that people leading and influencing the movement should imagine themselves as being called to such a pursuit. To him, it shouldn’t be the venue for resolving issues of ambition, or having something nice to write in your resume or merely defending or protecting one’s ideology. In the end, it boils down to a passion for service. And that is serious duty.

This realization daunted me. In all aspects of running, it was this aspect that troubled me most, which conveniently, was its very meaning. Sure, I could go room to room, prepare speeches, give a face to the party and even persevere the rigorous nightly training; but thanklessly serving the college and putting their needs and priorities aside, thereby sacrificing my own; wasn’t a cause I could live, much less, die for, I realized.

Philosopher Andre Sponville said that it is wrong to think of politics as contemptible activity as we are all occasionally involved in it. After all, we are the ones who put these politicians into power. But internalizing it and living for such wasn’t a place I was ready to go to. It is not a mountain I am ready (or willing) to move. I sincerely hope that our candidates would also realize that. ▪