I was reading Valerie Reiss’s interview with spiritual teacher and medical intuitive Caroline Myss this morning, and I got caught up in what Myss says is today’s most common source of spiritual discontent. She said of her students:
People say things to me like, “I know I was born to do something, but what is it?” That incredible discontentment is like an epidemic in this spiritual community of ours. [It’s] a passion to be of service to something greater than themselves. They misinterpret it as a search for an occupation. But what they’re really tapping into, what they’re really sensing, is that they have a need to discover their profound capacity to channel grace.
This quote reminded me so much of the themes at play in Henry James’ 1903 novella “The Beast in the Jungle” that I just had to mention it to you. The book is the tale of John Marcher, a man so detached from the moment, so separated from grace, that he just keeps waiting for his life to begin. He meets a lovely woman who relates to his fears and longings for something to happen. They see each other at fashionable parties and always speak of what he’s going through. She is kind, intellectual, perceptive. Nothing happens until something happens that gives Marcher’s life a shape. And then…
I don’t want to spoil the plot. A lesson in “how to live” is embedded in this great novella. I used to keep passages of it taped all over my refrigerator. So if you’re looking for a small book you can knock off in a weekend, try “Beast,” or reread it if you studied it in college. It’s a wonderful text to discuss in a spiritual book group in light of what Myss is saying here about our communal search for ourselves and our connection to grace.