Tinker, tailor, soldier, sailor

Tinker, tailor, soldier, sailor – we all chose our occupations in life. But why did you choose the occupation you did? Was it a chance opportunity, or a deliberate choice? Was it in some way connected to a family tradition? Was it because you recognised that your particular skills could be useful in your choice? Or did you sit down, conduct a dispassionate analysis – and follow your rational conclusion?

I have a theory that we often choose our occupation from rather deeper notions, of which we are often unaware. And you may feel, when I have done, that you would rather you had remained unaware.

Take for example becoming a doctor. There are very good reasons for someone of the right intellectual ability and an interest in people to make such a choice. And, of course, the money potential is good. But perhaps a stronger pull may be that you rather like knowing all the answers, and being able to communicate them without much fear of being contradicted.

Or possibly a policeman? It’s an excellent opportunity for contributing to society, through being an agent of good order. But might you also be someone with a sense of righteousness which you would like to be able to impose on others? There might even a be a little temptation to frighten people through your authority. I don’t mean that all policeman, or any of the other examples, are like this – merely that you will find a higher proportion of these hidden characteristics in policeman than you would find in other similar people who are not policemen. (Change policeman to Inland Revenue inspector, if you wish.)

We have all known wonderful teachers who may have changed our lives through their dedicated vocation. But are there teachers who have motives hidden even from themselves? The big world is scary, but if you move from the safe environment of a pupil to the safe environment of a teacher everything is likely to be comfortable. Among other advantages, the teaching profession is known for its tolerance for incompetents, it’s really quite hard to be sacked – so you’ll be very secure. And how tempting it would be to switch from being at the receiving end of the teaching process to being in charge!

How about the priesthood? That can hardly go wrong because you have the call from the Holy Spirit. Ho hum – the notion that our guidance from the Holy Spirit is reliable is very suspect. It is all too easy for us to mistake what we really want to do or really want to believe for the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. (Is it possible that we occasionally see this on the Blog?) “Test the spirits to see whether they are from God” was what St John recommended. What are the very human characteristics which might lead someone towards ordination? Figure of authority? Holy man? Happiness of one’s family? Subject to passions which cannot otherwise be controlled? Fear of the opposite sex? Secure career?

May be time for confession. I spent my career working in a large financial company with a high reputation. I started at the bottom, and worked my way near enough to the top over exactly 40 years. Why? Not for the love of finance, I assure you. Or of our clients. No, I am a person who likes to see a secure future. I do not like surprises. And an immensely strong company, who promoted from within, and only sacked people for financial irregularity, was just the thing. And I benefit from its pension scheme to this day. Nothing very noble in that.

How about you?

About Quentin

Portrait © Jacqueline Alma
This entry was posted in Moral judgment, Quentin queries and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

58 Responses to Tinker, tailor, soldier, sailor

  1. Peter D. Wilson says:

    My career was essentially a sequence of fortunate accidents. At school I switched from classics to science because I couldn’t get on with Greek. Three months before the end of my degree I had no idea of what to do afterwards, but an interesting-looking post came up and I was lucky enough to land it. Three years later it was abolished but I was moved to another part of the same organisation.
    Thirty years on I was commissioned to edit a book on the technical basis of the company and it promptly became the standard text on the subject (still in print after nearly 20 years). Meanwhile I was asked to look at three rather esoteric but strongly inter-related aspects that had suddenly become fashionable and had a dozen years trying to inject some common sense into international discussions of them, meeting very interesting people in interesting places. I had foreseen none of this and can only thank the good Lord for extraordinarily good luck.

  2. Horace says:

    My own story is very simple; My mother made it clear to me that Medicine should be my choice (I rather wanted to qualify as ab engineer).

    Why Medicine? Both my mother and father were qualified doctors – and on my father’s side grandfather, great grandfather and possibly great-great grandfather were qualified and practising doctors.

    I thoroughly enjoyed my time at University (Cork, National University of Ireland) and my year as resident at a local hospital – (Stroud Glos) followed by three years National Service (Royal Air Force Medical Service – following my father’s footsteps) before embarking on my main career of Clinical Neurophsiology (which might be considered as a quasi-engineering form of medicine – Incidentally my grandfather was involved in the early development of Xray technology).

    Along the way I also qualified as an Electrophysiological Technician (nowadays “Neurological Scientist”) and later (having studied computer programming and become a part-time Senior Lectured in Machine Intelligence) joined the British Computer Society eventually becoming a ‘Qualified Information Technology Practitioner’.

    A fairly chequered but not inconsistent career!
    Motivation – interest and opportunity on a background of Medicine.

  3. Iona says:

    Apart from the (adolescent) fantasies of becoming an artist or a writer (a brilliant and famous one, naturally) I gravitated into studying psychology (having read a few books and found them interesting), but while studying psychology became more interested in philosophy (there is an interface) and went on to study for a higher degree in philosophy, but part-time. Needed to earn a living, somehow gravitated into teaching, rapidly moving across into special education. Working with children who were outside the norm (a bit bizarre, unusual, way-out, the byways rather than the highways) had in fact appealed to me in an on-and-off sort of way for some time, but I really can’t say whether this was primarily for the “right” reasons (having the interest, patience and persistence to pursue these slippery fish and bring them into some sort of daylight) or the “wrong” ones (not many people wanted to do it, so a reasonably easy field to get into and get on in). I got the degree in philosophy but have never used it. I didn’t “get on” in the education field – though did continue working in it – because of the difficulty of combining raising a family with holding a responsible full-time job. But I did continue with it part-time, and eventually the opportunity arose to combine the psychology training with the “special” teaching and become an educational psychologist. This was relatively late in my career, but I did have about 13 years of it before retirement. It was suggested to me that I might like to go for a more senior position in the same area of work. I had plenty of excuses for choosing not to, but suspect that the main reason was that I don’t like to put my head above the parapet.

    • St.Joseph says:

      My career work in a high educational sense is not much compared to the first three comments.
      I started work at 15 in office work Bought Ledger I believe it is called Cedit Control now.
      My head for Maths and mental Arithmatic was not too bad and was given the employment because of it. I lived in Highgate at the time and travelled to the City .
      I worked my way up to Accounts and Cashier ,until I married at just 21, then moved to Stroud Glos Where I still live (where Horace will know}! My husband travelled around the West Country as a Buyer for Norvic Shoes ,the reason for my move.
      After a few weeks after our honeymoon in Ireland I got employment in the same office work, then 9 months later we had our first child, when my second was born ,and then 3 miscarriages then stayed at home
      .When the two children went to school, I took up employment in The Stroud Building Society, picking my children up at lunch time and again when they left at 3.0clock.
      A few years later my husband and I had the chance of buying the lease of a Public Free House , for two people who did not drink alcohol , he would have a pint with my brothers on a Sunday lunchtime ,this sounded ridiculous.. But we did it as the idea of working together and being able to feel close to our children and also both being used to business . And it was fun!!! Many a good time with the public, as it was more of a family pub in those days..
      We bought a large house and turned it into a Guest House and meeting many from all parts of the world , a lovely experience. And fond memories of friendships.
      We had enlarged the Public House and with around 27 staff were able to spend more relaxing time together, and holidays with both our parents ,with a boat on the River ,and a Motor Home As I have said before on SS, We loked after pregnant young girls until they had their babies, then in 1982 decided to teach NFP and did the Teachers Training course, beginning in Bristol Maternity Hospital, then Birmingham University, then on to some research, then on to teacing women to become teachers of NFP.
      All this time I did voluntary work for a local parish, Chairman at meetings, fund raising etc and parish rep for the Clifton Diocese
      My husband died in 2006 with a hospital bug CDiff aged 67, having had cancer of the bladder at 67,Becoming a catholic about 3 years before he died.
      I then took employment as a Carer to the elderly, until I retired at 65.9 years ago.
      That takes me up to date. I feel tired thinking about it all it was definitely a whirlwind
      50 years.
      One thing I am proud of and that is that my children and grandchildren have not lost their faith in all that time.Thanks be to God! We were always close and remain so.

      • St.Joseph says:

        I must say, even with all this activity in our family life, both my children went to University.
        Both in Business Studies.!!!
        Also my two eldest grandchildren, although not B/S One Criminoligy and forensic Science and the other Music Business Management,

  4. Alan says:

    I had been working in the Civil Service until about 17 years ago when my hobby began to make me some money and I wondered if I could perhaps make it pay a living wage. A couple of years of working part time in the office gave me a chance to paint more and sell my work to test the market. I’m still not rich or famous but I’m not broke either.
    I enjoy it when it is going well and I feel as if I am making progress. At times it is frustrating when I can’t achieve what I would like to. I’ve a million miles to go to come close to the work of some of my favourite artists.
    Motivation – something I liked doing anyway that would also pay the bills. A bit of a departure from my education in Material Science but I wasn’t very good at that anyway!

  5. Nektarios says:

    What impressive CVs you all have.
    Mine would not impress any of you, though in God’s providence, I covered a lot of ground.
    I can only say I am what I am by the grace of God. I am not trying to impress you or anyone in saying that. God sometimes uses the useless things of this world like me, turning me into a trophy of His grace and to serve in the Church as an Evangelist and a Pastor.
    I am somwhat retired now, but the Lord still uses me now and again.

  6. Brendan says:

    To sum up my past life ; my thoughts run very close to yours Nektarios …’.Benedicamus te ‘ ! – except the Evangelist and Pastor bit . Although God uses oneself in ways which seem to amount to the same things but without an official ‘ name ‘. My saving grace was Holy Matrimony ( aged 27 yrs.) . It is not fair to speak of my wife here whom I dearly love : but that her and my Catholic Christian belief/outlook on life saved me from God knows what ! To this day ( in my early years more out of fear and insecurity ) I have tried to harbour and therefore nurture a strong belief in Divine Providence which I believe was and is actively played out existentially in my life – and our world.
    You see ; It took me a long time to ‘ get over ‘ my fathers death – at the tender age of 10 yrs., which left me emotionally/ psychologically unable to ‘ fit in ‘ to and fathom a world which left me with a big hole in my heart , which nothing could fill. Therefore I under – achieved most of my Iife when it was important to achieve for myself. I warned my future wife about this – bur religion and the love of a woman/ wife was Providential. It was not until 20 yrs. ago when we both went into self- employed business ( which I recommend to anyone – with caution of course ) in retail women’s fashion accessories that , as it were ….. I came ‘ home ‘. We both loved it ! Even then I new that God-in-Christ had brought me to a mature self-realisation / epiphany . So, I can say unconditionally with John Newton …. ” Amazing grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me .”

  7. Quentin says:

    This is a rich set of ‘autobiographies’. I hope they will continue. Would people please remember that the Blog is in the public domain — although it feels like a conversation with friends to us. Naturally your email addresses are confidential, but be careful to think about personal information which might make you recognizable, especially if you are using your own name.I can edit any contributions which people on second thoughts are uneasy about.

  8. milliganp says:

    My father was a postman and my mother a nurse so their only expectation of their children was that they should “do better”. We had a strong Catholic upbringing particularly added to by two maiden aunts from Dublin who lived with my parents for a number of years. At 11 I went to the junior seminary but, for reasons best passed over at this time, I left at 14. At my interview (aged 10) with the Bishop prior to admission to the seminary I was asked how long I had wanted to be a priest, I replied “From the age of 3 I wanted to be Pope but at 7 I realised I just wanted to be a priest”.
    I always had two “ideal” ambitions, I both wanted to be a Priest and to be an Engineer. Having left the seminary I went to my elder brothers Grammar School. When it came to the time for applying to go to University I wanted to study the relatively new subject of Electronics (only 3 universities offered this subject in 1969). I remember a meeting with my parents and the headmaster where my parents were told I was far too good to do Engineering and should do pure science.
    Anyway I went to university to study maths and changed course in my second year to Automatic Control (an even newer subject) and Electronics.
    Before going to university I had started dating the girl whom I would come to marry. She came from a devout Catholic family and we met through the church youth club. We married in my final year of University and our first child was born shortly after graduation. At our wedding the parish curate said to me “Paul, I always thought you would become a priest”.
    I then worked for 5 years doing electronic design before answering an advert for an American computer company which had just set up in Ireland. I only applied in the hope of getting a trip to an interview in Galway where my cousin lived but I got the job and moved my family (now with three children) to Galway.
    At this point I’d just note that this element of serendipity / Divine providence seemed to guide our family’s life over a number of years. We moved from Galway to Dublin with a move to another computer company (at the time Ireland gave significant state aid to US companies setting up European manufacturing). The company I worked for came under intense competitive pressure and they closed the Irish manufacturing plant; I was offered a job in their European sales HQ in London so we moved the family (now 5 children) back to the UK.
    From then on I mainly worked as a technical specialist supporting sales operations becoming Technical Director of a number of medium sized sales organisations. My career has been dominated by transience, from University to 50 I worked for 12 different companies.
    Despite the obvious impossibility of doing so, I never lost the sense of vocation to the priesthood (or perhaps to the service of the God in ministry). I became aware of the Permanent Diaconate through my brother who was a policeman and had a police colleague who was a Deacon. When my father became ill and was admitted to hospital for tests my prayers for him became a “bargaining with God”, I promised that if my father lived I’d become a Deacon (please ignore the arrogance for now). Anyway the tests gave my dad weeks to live and he died at home, cared for by a loving family two weeks later. It would be another 18 months before I again considered applying to be considered for the Permanent Diaconate but I did and have now been in ministry for 15 years. In the final years of my career I look after computer systems for an agency of the church so I go to mass at work, occasionally preach and have given talks on the use of technology in evangelization and catechesis.
    I have to confess to not having put a single moments planning into the course of my life (my poor wife would probably say “that’s not the half of it”) but I have a strong internal trust in providence and God’s good will for the future. Perhaps one day I will go for tests and others will pray; I once had to undergo some external assessments as part of a management team exercise, to the question “what is your ultimate goal in life” I replied “when I die, to find out that God exists and quite likes Catholics”.

  9. Brendan says:

    ” I have a theory that we choose our occupation from rather deeper notions , of which we are often unaware. And you may feel , when I have done, that you had rather you remained unaware.”
    Whether ” noble ” or not and without delving into too much subjectivity , we are what we are – because of , not despite of what we think we are. I believe … ” Open confession is good for the soul ” . – ? Proverb.
    Personally, I cannot relate to that statement principally because of the restrictions ( psychological/physical trauma ) imposed on me in my early life , coupled with an innate characteristic lack of worldly ambition in myself , or ‘ need ‘ or ‘want’ of the material available for me. Don’t get me wrong : this is not an excuse for failure on my part – principally because I am strengthened in the conviction that I have not ‘ failed ‘ in the material sense. We are what we are. To that extent i can live quite happily with a quote from a very famous female politician from Ecclesiastes …. ” Vanity , vanity ; all is vanity !… which struck me as impressive , because politicians generally are not known for public expressions of humility or soul-searching.
    What does all this mean ? It means that in the inscrutable way that God seems to work in our world he ‘ picks ‘ some of his children – the exact choice remaining a mystery in this life – to exhibit His power through their real sufferings in showing those persons and a ‘ fallen ‘ world an enlightened state ( primarily, but not exclusively as Christians ) of reality , though the palpably, ferocious saving ‘ POWER ‘ released through relating their sufferings to His Cross .. The Truth is that our world is transient …. Christ’s ( HIS ) is everlasting joy. That’s why the Saints cling to the Cross …. all is gift to be enjoyed in Christ here and now ! in accepting this ..we are what we are.
    ” To the Jews a stumbling-block , to the Greeks foolishness. ” 1 Cor. 1:23.

  10. St.Joseph says:

    Brendan. Thank you for that insight.
    You say ‘I have a theory that we choose our occupation from rather deeper notions. of which we are unaware.’
    I think your post is an insight it the reality of our existence..
    I dont know the reason ‘when looking back on my life ‘ why I choose the way my future developed from 15 the time when I made the decision for the road I took,
    Being that my mother came with me on my interview,( me in short white socks) that would never happen today.Young people are very confident or seem to be and have many choices -to be or not to be!
    I was trust into the deep end of life of which I had no experience, the only knowledge I really had was of The Lord. And looking back now it seems that He threw me into the the enviroment of life where sin existed to the extreme, from my social life ,as a teenager in Soho coffe Bars etc, to Jazz Clubs, etc, etc etc. All good experience of life.There are many roads to God and He knows who can bear the burdens and obstacle with the help and comfort of the Holy Spirit when we trust in Him, He will not let us down!
    I believe that God guides us through thick and thin and I thank Him that He kept me under His Loving Care .One does not recognise this at times, only when we look back can we realise He is our Father we His Children,and share the sufferings of Jesus on the Cross with the Hope we will share the happiness with Him in the place He has prepared for us..

    • Brendan says:

      Just so St. Joseph – thank you for your insightful experience. … ( I quoted from Quentin )
      I’m not scholarly enough perhaps to propagate the full story, but from my readings I hold the theory ( not held by me alone ) , that the eschatological dynamic of Christian belief/living has been dissipated over time in the West (? Eastern Christianity may have taken a different route ) reaching its practical nadir during the Enlightenment – Descartes , Voltaire ; followed by political theorists such as Hegel, Nietzsche , Marx etc. – accentuating the Human over the Divine. The prominence of this thought in the last century resulting in a redaction of hitherto firmly held universal belief in all- embracing effect of Divine Providence . This prominence seemingly finding its earlier zenith in the much maligned by some – ‘ Golden Age ‘ of the High Middle Ages.
      i believe post- Vatican ii has redressed that balance somewhat – but seemingly has a fair way to go if our experience of modern day living anything to go by.

  11. Alasdair says:

    You Catholics may have a different perspective on this issue. Protestants, or evangelicals at least, believe that one is saved through faith alone, by God’s grace. Works (including one’s work) cannot impress God, so have no effect on salvation.
    This difference, so to speak, comes to a head in James Ch2 V14.
    The New Revised Standard Version (approved for Catholics) reads:
    “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you?”
    The New International Version (popular, but rarely found in Catholic homes or churches) reads:
    “What good is it, my brothers, if a man CLAIMS to have faith but has no deeds. Can SUCH faith save him?” (capitals added by me).
    The implication is that, while you are not saved by works (or work), the Holy Spirit guides believers into works. A lack of good works might therefore by taken to indicate a lack of faith.

    • milliganp says:

      The NIV version has been seriously criticised by American Evangelicals and a large numbers of churches refuse to allow its use, so it s not a good version to use particularly the verse you quote which is not true to the intent of the Greek original text. Luther called James an “Epistle of straw” because it seems to clash with “salvation by faith alone”.
      Jusus, in one of his vinyard parables, fortells the destruction of a vinyard that does not produce fruit so it appears fruit is expected of faith. St. Paul also says in his famous Corinthian passage that faith without love (charity) would make him “a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal”.

    • Peter D. Wilson says:

      Alasdair – Catholics may also believe that one without any acknowledged faith can nevertheless be saved through a righteous disposition – presumably a fruit of grace – evidenced by good works. Any thoughts?

      • milliganp says:

        In the judgement teaching of Jesus in Matthew 25:31ff humanity seems to be judged entirely on deeds rather than words. Some have interpreted those who ask “when did I see you hungry and feed you” etc as those who had never known Christ in faith but still had good works.

    • John L says:

      As a Catholic, I feel one does not need to be an Evangelical to accept that “A lack of good works might … be taken to indicate a lack of faith”. I would think that any Christian needs, to put it crudely, to “put his money where his mouth is”. I think this is what St James, more politely, is saying, irrespective of translation.

  12. Quentin says:

    I would be interested to hear any comments about my assertion that different occupations tend to attract different kinds of people. I mentioned doctors, teachers, policemen and priests.

    Do you agree? Are you aware of other occupations which attract particular psychological characteristics?

    • milliganp says:

      Having worked alongside salesmen for many years the occupation seems to attract a higher level of sociopaths than other occupations. Selling is often very ego-driven “first you sell yourself, then the company, then the product”. Much of my work alongside salesmen was preventing the sale of systems that did not meet or match customer need.
      Alongside this there seem to be a higher than average number of personal inadequates and fragile egos in IT departments, so often “you can’t do that” meant “I don’t know how to” or “I don’t want to”.

    • Alasdair says:

      Oil well drillers have a very low opinion of the rest of the human race.

  13. Iona says:

    People working in IT have a repuation for being nerdish. Clever but Aspergerish.

    And I remember reading – years ago – an article claiming that there is a correlation between being born in the summer and going in for an acting career. I can’t begin to think why that might be.

    • milliganp says:

      I wonder if that correlation also works in the Southern Hemisphere? Perhaps, because of the school year, summer babies tend to be the youngest in their class. If I was being nerdish I might start a debate about the difference between correlation and causation.

  14. Iona says:


    to the question “what is your ultimate goal in life” I replied “when I die, to find out that God exists and quite likes Catholics”.

    I love that answer!

  15. John Candido says:

    I grew up with a very loving father. He was like a sun shining on me. He was a wonderful! I was just so lucky. He passed away in 2003 at 83. My parents impressed on me the overriding importance of education.

    One of the most influential events in my life was the effects of the Vietnam War on Australia and the rest of the world. Seeing massive demonstrations in Melbourne and around the world on television as a young boy against an interminable civil war was a very significant event in my life. I didn’t get involved in any demonstrations as I was too young.

    The sociological dimensions of society were on full display. It can be said that the 1960s was a very sociological era which petered off in the aftermath of stagflation, the ascendency of Friedrich Hayek and neoliberalism. It is no wonder that I enjoyed sociology so much at university.

    The 1960s was seminal to the formation of some of my values. The 60s was synonymous with social questioning, challenging the establishment, increasing personal freedom over outside controls etc. It wasn’t all good of course. As I was so focused on becoming someone with a degree things such as illegal drugs were simply repulsive to me.

    While my ambitions were very important to me they were never quite fulfilled in a conventional manner. While I never got into trouble with the law I did become very unsettled and troubled as a teenager. This spelled the end of study for me in the short term and I had to leave school and find work of one sort or another. It was not any form of mental illness but the stupidity and inexperience of youth, combined with sheer pigheadedness. Being inflexible and inordinately certain of my views only served to halt any progress at school.

    I gravitated to lots of menial work but Taxi driving was the most satisfying occupation that I ever had. Incidentally, my father was a taxi driver. After driving for many years I decided to give university a go again and got my degree.

    One of the worst aspects of taxi driving was fare evasion. After several of these experiences I thought that the only way of getting on top of this problem was for society to rid itself of cash. I was driving on the night of the 4th February 1995, when a part-time cab driver called Peter Coe, who was a mature-age social work student at Monash University and who enjoyed amateur plays, was stabbed to death on the corner of Cynga & Belgrove streets Preston. He was 41 years of age. Two teenagers were involved. The perpetrator was aged 13 & his accomplice was aged 14. It was a cash robbery. This shook me greatly as it could have been me.

    Ever since that night I swore that I was going to do all that I can in an informal manner to help bring forward the end of cash. All that I could do was to talk to people who worked in businesses over the phone to introduce Eftpos machines for credit cards, write letters to newspapers, businesses and clubs that I was a member of and make good use the internet.

    Twenty years after Peter Coe’s murder and unrelated to my efforts, the Danish Chamber of Commerce lobbied their parliament to make cash optional in some sectors of their economy. If passed, this legislated proposal will apply next year. It is the harbinger of the end of physical money as we know it.

    • milliganp says:

      The internet form Uber provides 100% cashless taxi transactions and drivers find this reduces their fear of attack. However there is a move towards giving cash tips (as the Uber payment service does not allow this) which might be a retrograde step.

  16. St.Joseph says:

    God does more than like us.
    He LOVEs us and showed how much by suffering on the Cross for all mankind!
    I dont think we ought to think anything less. of Him..

    • milliganp says:

      St. Joseph, the original comment was mine and was not intended to be flippant, but I do have a dry sense of humour. There is a sense in which for faith to be faith it has to deal with a different kind of certainty than that of science or mere ‘fact’.
      Given there are 1 billion Muslims in the world and 500 million evangelicals then we have to accept that ‘in good faith’ they hold to their positions.
      While my adult faith admits difficulty but not doubt I always ultimately seek out it’s foundation in childhood faith and often the words of the hymns we sang at Benediction and my hope and trust in God is expressed in the words “for how can he deny me heaven
      who here on earth himself hath given?”. In the words of the same hymn we are called to respond in faith by giving “some love for such unmeasured love”.
      These words are imprinted in my personality (heart and soul) and ultimately trump all intellectual speculations.

  17. Brendan says:

    Quentin, June 13, 1.29pm.
    I prepared a sympathetic. nuanced piece on something I and others have come across, and which I as a theist ( Catholic ) , believe we should and can discuss. Unfortunately . I pressed the wrong key ( not unusual for me ! ) and lost it. Saints preserve us !
    I haven’t the time today – due to a Catholic family event – so i will make a statement for possible discussion and revisit, perhaps tomorrow .
    When I worked in nursing in the 1970’s, it was common knowledge ( ‘ locker-room conversation ‘ ) at that period – before care -in -the- community replaced the old geriatric and psychiatric hospitals ; that a disproportionately large number of non- heterosexual male and female nurses worked in these nursing disciplines.
    I will leave it at that for possible discussion .

    • ignatius says:

      I worked in nursing during the late 1970’s but must have sat in a different locker room than Brendan as there was no such chatter as I remember. Of our contingent there were 5 men and 45 women.
      I began working life as a labourer and stayed at that level till I began my nurse training at age around age 22. I did this based on the idea I would be able to travel round the world with my qualification. Alas I hated hospitals. But I did realise I had a brain and so went off to university. A rock climbing accident led me into rehabilitation exercise, Tai chi and an interest in physical therapy I eventually trained as an osteopath and have plyed my trade for 25 years or so now. I branched out into education and help run the teaching clinic for a local University which trains osteopaths in its Healthcare faculty. Along the way I have collected a familly, a Fine Art degree, a dog collar and have worked for various church denominations in a variety of capacities either part or fulltime both in Britain and overseas.

      I do not think that the person we are or the one we become is particularly amenable to any one kind of analysis be it secular, psychological, biochemical, religious or whatever. All we know is that there are certain parameters: we did not choose our births or our biochemical constituents. We do not choose our weaknesses or our strengths and our lives appear governed largely the interplay of these moderated by our environment coupled to the element of apparent randomness in life. I do not consider our strengths or weaknesses to be especially indicative of moral standing though the manner and choice of the way we deploy whatever leeway in action is left to us could be deemed so. Thus , in my view, there are quite possibly criminals in prisons who yet display a higher moral register than priests, doctors, etc etc.

      As to types it is plain and clear to see that these exist both in terms of strengths, dispostions, abilities, predilictions, and weaknesses. From my universitiy teaching post I probably identify a handful of types choosing to become osteopaths . There are for example brisk types who are often sporty, relatively successful in their endeavours and usually wedded to a fairly superficial but cheerful mode of being; they are capable of strong if narrow focus. These types are often succesful practitioners and are happy with definite musculo skeletal practices treating back pain, neck pain and sports injuries. At the opposite end of the spectrum there are indistinct and often relatively unfoccussed types who nonetheless possess a creative and sensitive faculty which allows them to sense, intuit and empathise. This faculty often makes them good practitioners who tend to focus on broader and more diffuse health conditions such as fibromyalgia, ME etc, often they will become Cranial Osteopaths treating babies and children. Then also there is a category of person who is searching for something constructive to do but is not sufficiently self aware or focussed to pursue a direction which will fullfill them. These ones are simply reacting to life events around them which have provoked a career path crisis; this type usually fails. I’m sure we could all observe types around us and even have a go at placing ourselves in some bracket or another

      From my own experiences and observations I see people as generally acting out their histories and makeup, sometimes this goes smoothly sometimes it does not. I do not believe that our lives are mapped out or that it is even wise to make sweeping generalisations about how favoured or unfavoured we are in the eyes of God; I do believe that most of us try to do our best and that God is merciful and kind.

  18. Brendan says:

    Ignatius – I am pleased for you that you appear to have had for yourself and others a clear idea of ” certain parameters ” within which to live out ones life. You seem from humble beginnings to have made a good contribution to society and to have made full use of your ” talents ” . To ones human reckoning , God will be more than pleased when you present your account. For many who have relied on God being ” merciful and kind ” – this was and is a salutary lifeline.
    The reason why I dressed the subject of my piece as ‘ locker-room conversation ‘ was to allude to the fact that during that period of my work-life , the subject of homosexuality and lesbianism was before and for sometime after a ‘ taboo ‘ subject of discussion in society at large ; although many of us will know of a family member or friend with this predilection. Not having all the factual knowledge does not erase the probability of an existing disposition.
    In my experience, non- heterosexuals exhibit very often a natural demonstrative sensitivity and caring nature which accords with the ethos of nursing. Due to the often unpleasant , sometimes hostile environment facing some in the past , geriatric and psychiatric nursing would probably appeal to their particular ” type “. One can surmise also ; that given the insecurity they may have been felling , working and socialising together presented them with the comfort and confidence of ” certain parameters.” in their lives.
    When my paternal and maternal great-grandparents looked for succour in ‘ mother ‘ Britain from a degraded Ireland ; they lived together for a long in what could be called ‘ Irishtowns ‘. …. in nature ‘ , birds of a feather flock together.’

  19. Nektarios says:

    I wonder if Quentin’s desire to get to the bottom of what makes us choose the professions we do, is not really the most important question to ask, a bit of a red-herring.
    How does one decide? Is it calculation? Is it worldly wisdom — a shrewd, balanced view based on history and human knowledge? Or, is it the Word of God, warning us that this life and this world are only transient, and that both are merely a preparation for the world to come? It does not tell us to turn our backs entirely upon the world, but it does insist that we have the right view of the world. It emphatically states that what really matters is the coming of God’s kingdom.

    • Martha says:

      It seems to me that it is usually circumstances through which God speaks to us, and which determine the way of life which we travel, the circumstances of personality, ability, opportunity and the influence of the people we meet. Sometimes a child will show an obvious special interest and will be determined to pursue it, but for most people the reality of choice is quite limited. Decisions about special vocations to the priesthood as Quentin mentions, and to consecrated religious life, were talked about a lot in my childhood, but obviously less since then, though opportunities for doing overtly good work in the world have increased.

    • milliganp says:

      I’m not trying to contradict but I would guess the vast majority of humanity gives little thought to the Divine plan in living out their lives. 2 generations ago most boys followed their fathers into their occupation, so you were a miner, shipbuilder, dock worker or agricultural labourer by birth. Only a few “escaped” the constraints of their birth. The middle classes have chosen careers for several generations and the Grammar school system of my youth allowed some working class boys (and fewer girls) to choose a different path. In that system exam grades were the key factor in the path to a career. If you didn’t get good enough O Level grades you went to work at 16 – to a bank or insurance company with decent grades. Only 5% of the population went to university. Many of those who went to teacher training college did not do so because they wanted to be teachers but because the grade average required was lower than that for university. Today choice is everything but it is a very recent change in the human story – and still only applies to the 15%-20% most affluent section of the world’s population.

      • Brendan says:

        Milliganp – Good points. I’m told my mother’s elder brother passed the exams for grammar school ( pre-11 + ) in the early 1920’s ; but could not go because my grandparents couldn’t afford for him to attend. Ironically , the same school I attended in 1962.

      • Martha says:

        Absolutely, the need to earn a living, to survive, often as square pegs in round holes, has mainly been the only choice for most people. For those who do have choice, it is sometimes a decision to avoid the rat race, and opt for a job with fewer, or a different type of demand, such as bus driving, gardening, cleaning, delivering post. I know somebody who left industry to train for teaching as a mature student, and was challenged by a colleague with, “So you are going to teach the rats instead?”

  20. Brendan says:

    The ” deeper notions , that we may be unaware of.. ” for choosing an occupation in our compulsive , competitive world can bring one to a screaming halt in life.
    When I think of the driven nature of The Commodities Markets in the financial world; I behold the thrill that young men experience , looking for instant gratification in achieving their goal in competition with each other ; stretching their nerves to breaking like adrenalin junkies living off ‘ the thrill of the chase ‘ day after day – of course with the added chance bonus of making lots of ‘ moola ‘.
    This insane merry-go-round like some ever- increasing monster feeding off itself; to the ‘ outsider ‘ resembling a vision of Dante’s Inferno – to the ‘ insider ‘on reflection , something perhaps to which they would rather have ” remained unaware “. !

  21. G.D. says:

    Brendan, Yes! “competitive world can bring one to a screaming halt in life” … ” looking for instant gratification in achieving their goal” ………..

    Could it not be ‘abundance of choice’ and ‘anything is possible’ that is the problem?

    There are of course many factors that influence a person’s life choices (and avoidance choices) of work situations. Psychology has proven this – just look at the Myers Briggs type indicator, which is remarkably accurate in indicating ‘preferences’. And of course peer pressure, from family and society, and the individuals ability/inability to discern which ‘pressure’ to accept or refuse. Many other influences ….. Most likely the majority of the up and coming generation may want to be celebrities whatever, if any, work is involved!

    But may I tentatively suggest it really doesn’t matter.
    There are people suited to the position they find themselves in who are unhappy ‘with it’; many who are unsuited to the positions but make the best of it and remain content – if not deliriously overjoyed.
    On one end of the spectrum there are those who do something about it and change jobs, frequently, the other end those who (if they are able to) stay all through life.
    Might it be the temperament (confidence, self image, psychological emotional & spiritual maturity) that defines the level of ‘satisfaction obtained’ from job situation (and life situations in general). Also the ability to master it or leave it.
    Without ignoring obvious limitations persons may have of course – someone with no sense of balance would hardly be able to be a tight rope walker!

    Is it a fact of life that ‘too much choice’ takes away the development of a persons ability to actually discern what life choices to make? Particularly in connection with the important choices such as employment, partner, altruism …. God ?

    • Brendan says:

      G.D. – I empathise with your proposition that ‘ too much choice ‘ can mask a persons ability to make the right life choices for ‘ THEM ‘ in life. This is exacerbated by the global spreading of materialistic consumerism which propels ‘ choice ‘ into areas our parents/grandparents could only dream of ( I’m 64yrs. old ). I see that generation as generally happy and contented with their lot anyway – seemingly ticking all of the boxes you suggest in your final sentence ! It is no coincidence that in our post- Christian era stability / contentment in those areas you mention ; employment, partner, altruism ( neighbourliness ) , I perceive as being in retreat. In pursuit of this ultimate satisfaction ( materialism ) – the new ‘ Holy Grail ‘, in limitless range of choice , we are steadily individualising our lives to suit our own egos.
      Yes, in this process we are unknowingly dehumanising ourselves and therefore our surroundings. With no common factor ( in the Wests case – Christianity ) to entrench itself in our democratic society …. can we survive without the ultimate consumer choice of selling ones immortal soul to the highest bidder ?

      • G.D. says:

        Brendan, seems like we are singing from the same hymn sheet, couldn’t agree more. I would say that it’s not ‘unknowingly’. There is ample and obvious indications for all to see. (Ignoring, denying maybe?)

        The old “we were only following orders” excuse. Only today it seems to be a case of “we were only following our ‘leaders’ examples!”
        Who knows maybe a few (as Papa Francis is) generous hearted genuine ‘leaders’ can change the present status quo, and give a worthy example to follow?

        Yet, in the hearts of some of the most hardened and selfish there is still a care and concern for family and friends.
        I feel one of the major ‘realisations’ needed is too extend that familiar care into the wider community. How i have no idea! But there are signs it is happening; small pockets of people concerned for the welfare of all are springing up everywhere.
        Being a rather introverted soul I don’t ‘join’ in, but do pray!

        Hard as I do find it to hope for the human race in general, these genuine people do show me the action and ‘face’ of God alive amongst us still.

        In small ways, in poverty (of spirit), the Kingdom of God is found.

        Let’s thank God that He made souls priceless, and whatever amount is offered from wherever God knows it’s not enough; and, gave His life for them already! There is my hope. Beyond all my pessimism, and I assure you, I have plenty of that!

  22. G.D. says:

    And makes the individual self oriented (as in ego) to the level of ‘animal’?

  23. Ignatius says:

    “How does one decide? Is it calculation? Is it worldly wisdom — a shrewd, balanced view based on history and human knowledge? Or, is it the Word of God, warning us that this life and this world are only transient, and that both are merely a preparation for the world to come? It does not tell us to turn our backs entirely upon the world, but it does insist that we have the right view of the world. It emphatically states that what really matters is the coming of God’s kingdom…”

    I have never made any decision based remotely on any of the above. I simply do not have a ‘shrewd balanced view’ of anything, nor do I possess ‘worldly wisdom’ in any measure whatsoever. It does interest me that this kind of language is often used by persons who have made their relatively focussed and successful way in the world negotiating its pitfalls with a degree of aplomb. There is a whole tranche of people, of whom I am one, who have simply struggled along with no particular defined plan but just a simple desire to feel happy and to get somewhere with something.

    Over the years I have come to realise that as an individual I am one of a type that could be defined as ‘needy’ of affection, comfort, encouragement and acknowledgement. The greatest delight and joy has been of discovering that this frank need in my life is met in as much as it can be met, in Christ. This discovery has quite literally saved me for this life and I hope it will do so for the next. Oddly enough I find latterly that this character of mine suits the bill for prison chaplaincy on account of the fact that the prison I work at seems to be loaded down with character types not greatly different from my own.

    • Nektarios says:

      Your reply is very honest, Ignatius, and not surprising.
      What I was hinting at in my reply to Quintin’s preamble, it is easy to to plod along, and with
      some good fortune, we enter the right occupation – most don’t.
      What is not so easy to understand unless one is truly a Christian – (which is a question in itself), our journey in this life is a spiritual one.
      The problems people face today, that the Church faces, are not so much one of lack of money, or troubles, political, social, education etc – the solution to which are spiritual.

    • Brendan says:

      Mine and G.D.’S point earlier ? You’ve not chased after life-choices.

  24. St.Joseph says:

    Am I being old fashioned in saying is there a difference between male and female when it comes to a long time career.?
    I believe times have changed over the last 50 or so years, with women choosing a career
    Marriage was thought of a ‘career’ in those days. Family life and raising children,.
    I cant remember infant nurseries, and pre school for children so that mothers could go to work
    When children got older perhaps in their teens women took on part time employment.
    When my father retired from horse racing and training And I got married, my mother took a job as an Usheret in a large cinema in London. She loved it! Showing people to their seats and selling ice cream in the interval Then later moved to the West country to be near me and helped us in our business with my father until she died aged 67. 1977
    My grandmoher had what was called a ‘trade serving her time as a ladies tailor in 1905.
    As a war widow when my grandfather was killed first day of the Somme 1916, she took in making wedding dress’s etc in her home..One did what they could in those days,having only one child (my mother) she managed,and never married, Make do and mend as the saying goes.
    Things are better now, but has it affected family life I wonder!

    • John Candido says:

      ‘…my mother took a job as an Usherette in a large cinema in London. She loved it!’ (St.Joseph)

      The example from St.Joseph indicates to us all that most jobs can be enjoyable and satisfying. It would depend on the individual concerned of course and the circumstances that they find themselves in. As long as one is fairly recompensed for one’s efforts; differences in income, which are inevitable, is not an appropriate measure of assessing success in life, despite it being the singular focus of lots of people for obvious reasons.

      You can be a success in life at any job. One can have any job and as long as one basically enjoys it you have the right to call yourself successful in life. The other thing is how one individual defines ‘success’ can be very different to another person’s definition of success. Despite this, you can be a success regardless of your occupation or your income. ‘People who have high status jobs & lucrative salaries are the only successful people; everybody else is failure’, is a shallow & narrow-minded way of looking at life.

      Great wealth is something that most people dream about. I certainly do! One can happily retire on a great stack of money and live out the rest of your days in comfort and security. Alternatively, great wealth can have enormous stresses associated with it. Especially if you are never satisfied with how much you have got and have latched yourself on an eternal treadmill of seeking more and more of it. Mind you some people are relatively happy doing this as well! The relationship between your money and your mind is a tricky matter. It is a truism that your mind is independent of material matters and has a life of its own, regardless of one’s social-status or wealth.

      • St.Joseph says:

        John Candido.
        Last Sunday I celebrated my 74 birthday with a party in my home.,with my family and friends and 12 neighbours.
        It was a wonderful day,and we all enjoyed it so much.
        I heard one neighbour say to another (both men) that if they won the Lottery they would not move,as they are so happy here,with neighbours as close friends,
        I say this because they have been so good to me in my last 12 months suffering from cancer,and alive today after being told last June I had 8 or 9 weeks to live.
        None of them are catholics,or attend church, but no where could one find such lovely people who have seen me through many a trial in the last 12 months.They were there for me all the time, and all retired.And from many walks of life and occupation.
        I also found the same love in my teenage friends many years ago living in London.,me being the only catholic in the pack! They called me the little catholic girl

        I read a little meditation the other day I would like to share as God is Love and is seen and felt in others!

        The main gift that God has given us is life. A life to be lived here on Earth to know Him better,to love Him in a stronger and growing way, and to make him known and loved by all that we encounter.
        We also have to use our imagination to think of the alternative, which is not to be, to have no existence at all, to be like a boulder unthinking and unfeeling and this will increase our gratitude.

      • John Candido says:

        I am sure that I speak for everyone on SecondSight when I say that everyone acknowledges your illness and we will continue to pray for your complete recovery. All of the very best to you St.Joseph.

      • St.Joseph says:

        John Candido.
        Thank you for your kind thoughts and prayers.
        I have just seen your post.

    • Martha says:

      St. Joseph, when I stopped teaching just before our first son was born in 1964, I think a register of teachers’ numbers was being introduced, and the headmistress had to list the names of her staff for this purpose. She immediately assumed that I would not want to be included as I would not be returning, but she did put my name down when I suggested that this was not certain as a successful outcome to the pregnancy could not be completely guaranteed. She was a nun in the later stages of her teaching life, and was still getting used to the days when a female teacher in a Catholic school always left when she married, even before having a child, at least that is what I understood at the time. Incidentally, I was earning just under £1,000 a year, which I considered a very high income.

      Like your mother, I thoroughly enjoyed various jobs I had as a student, and later, to supplement the family income a little, delivering post at Christmas, waitressing and washing up in small cafes, some office work, some domestic cleaning, and also more recently, work in a charity shop.

      I have just been reading a fascinating account of the lives of indigenous people of Alaska in the last century. They were totally dependant on the skills and work of both parents for families to survive, and of course the mothers had their children with them all the time so that they learnt how to survive from the start, so much so that when the author’s mother tragically died while their father was on a river expedition, when he was only 5 years old, he was able to feed his baby sister, his younger brother and himself for about 2 weeks before adults found them. The detailed account of how he went about it in that harsh environment is almost incredible. The book is Shadows on the Koyukuk, An Alaskan Native’s Life Along the River, by Sidney Huntingdon as told to Jim Rearden.

  25. Brendan says:

    Deuteronomy 4: 39-40… ” Keep his laws and commandments… so that you and your children may prosper.”
    Our lord defines concisely the ‘ deliberate choice ‘ in choosing the right path for us in Matthew 6: 21…. ” For where your treasure is, there will your heart be, “

  26. Alasdair says:

    This will no doubt raise hackles among you but – I find the Myers-Briggs personality indicator test fascinating! It is still widely used, in some form or other, in careers-advice and recruitment as an additional tool and aid to decision making.
    I’m pleased to say that, by that criterion, I am following an appropriate career path!

  27. G.D. says:

    In reply to the quote below from Ignatius’ comment June 16, 2015 at 4:07 pm

    “How does one decide? Is it calculation? Is it worldly wisdom — a shrewd, balanced view based on history and human knowledge? Or, is it the Word of God, warning us that this life and this world are only transient, and that both are merely a preparation for the world to come? It does not tell us to turn our backs entirely upon the world, but it does insist that we have the right view of the world. It emphatically states that what really matters is the coming of God’s kingdom…”

    I suggest the use of ‘world’ is really a euphemism for all ‘action that is not of God’ – not the flesh, planet, universe we inhabit as it’s usually interpreted.
    Creation, and all it contains of God is still as God made it – ‘good’. We add the ‘worldly’ bits! Mea culpa!!

    I agree the answer is spiritual.
    We desperately need to NOT ‘decide’ simply by making the prayer “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, ON EARTH as in heaven” a reality NOW, in the Present Moment, as best we can. That is the Kingdom of God being revealed.
    Simply I say! The hardest thing for us ego ridden species to actualise!
    The life of Jesus is, of course, our chief and perfect example; but there are others through the ages, not all Christian in name, who have ‘actualised’ that will of God. Often in the simplest of ways. And to varying degrees helped usher in more of The Kingdom.

    Is incarnation of the Spirit the way we can allow our choices to be decided for us? ‘Not my will, but Your Will’ for jobs and all other issues. Would they then be ‘right’ choices, for The Kingdom?

    Yes we decide, we say yea or nay, but after listening and accepting the ‘choice’ God made us for. Only by giving up ‘our choices’ can the Spirit’s ‘choice’ be seen. ……… not explained very well but sure you see my point.
    Sounds like a recipe for procrastination, I know; but it’s not, it’s very hard work at times! Impossible even. …… For us that is …… for God… ??

  28. ignatius says:

    “….I agree the answer is spiritual.
    We desperately need to NOT ‘decide’ simply by making the prayer “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, ON EARTH as in heaven” a reality NOW, in the Present Moment, as best we can. That is the Kingdom of God being revealed.
    Simply I say! The hardest thing for us ego ridden species to actualise!
    The life of Jesus is, of course, our chief and perfect example; but there are others through the ages, not all Christian in name, who have ‘actualised’ that will of God. Often in the simplest of ways. And to varying degrees helped usher in more of The Kingdom….”

    Yes this is true but you need to remember you are one being, body, soul and spirit. You are not divided into compartments nor should you be at war with yourself. Often we make decisions based on a faculty called ‘instinct’ which is in fact a mixture of all the above. The animal instinct within us is, believe it or not, redeemed along with the rest of you (though sadly in need of training I must admit) God does not despise your body and nor should you.

  29. G.D. says:

    ‘ ON EARTH ‘ – ie as we are now body and all, which I don’t despise in the least.
    Prayer encompasses all our being – how am I compartmentalising?

    ‘Often we make decisions based on a faculty called ‘instinct’ ‘

    Instinct is part of human nature, agreed. In human’s as ‘animal’ instinct or ‘human’ instinct not I’m sure. My jury has been out on that one for years.
    (Likewise the instinct of a cow may have developed differently from the instincts of a stork. Cows don’t spear fish when they are hungry. They have horns!).

    The ‘instinctual nature’, as i see it, is more of a pure survival drive – fight flight reproduce shelter and food – not a decision/deciding ‘faculty’.
    To be sure it has it’s influence, and if allowed to rule will produce an autonomous response from a person – when a tiger jumps out we don’t think or wonder or wait for inspiration – we RUN!
    But, it seems to me, it’s not a ‘faculty’ that is ‘used’ by humankind to ‘decide’ anything. The drive itself, in extreme conditions, and it’s programming has overridden any evaluation / deciding faculty. Has already ‘decided’ in fact.
    As it does with most (untrained) animals the vast majority, if not all, of their existence .

    The ‘faculty’ you are sighting seems more like ‘Intuition’ to me. Along with the other functions – sensation thinking feeling – which help us to evaluate and decide a course of action. Intuition often seems like ‘instinct’ because it’s not ‘seen’ and suddenly (Eureka!) we ‘just know’ the answer.
    (But that’s not to say a process of evaluation, via intuition, has not been going on ‘in the dark’ so to speak).

    Did you miss my penultimate sentence?
    ………’Yes we decide, we say yea or nay, but after listening and accepting the ‘choice’ God made us for. Only by giving up ‘our choices’ can the Spirit’s ‘choice’ be seen.’ ……….
    We do decide evaluate and use our God given functions. But first, ideally, and continually, we lay ourselves open to the inspirations of the Spirit. By giving up our ‘own choices’ and making the Spirits inspiration our own choice in every ‘Present Moment’.
    Note- I said “accepting the ‘choice’ God made us for.” …. made us for … not made for us.

  30. John Nolan says:

    Given that both my parents. two grandparents and most of my uncles and aunts were teachers, it is perhaps not surprising that I followed them into the profession. I probably lacked ambition – when I had the opportunity to do a one-year MA degree I chose War Studies at King’s College London because it interested me, rather than a degree in ‘education’ which might have enhanced my chances of promotion.

    At 64 I am supposed to be retired but am still doing a lot of teaching – secondary French and German, one-to-one tutoring and even primary teaching which is a new experience but very rewarding.

    Ten years ago, having never sung in a choir, I resolved to study Gregorian Chant and now find that I am singing at various churches three Sundays out of four, since there is a skills shortage in this area.

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