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Vocation as Vacation

July 2012
Vocation as Vacation SATYALOGUE
with PostModern Gandhiji (PMG)

An advice column offering the Mahatma’s perspective on modern dilemmas


Dear PMG,

Now that I’ve graduated from college, I thought I would take the lead in planning a family vacation. When I was younger, what passed for vacations were either educational travel to historic places in America or trips to visit relatives and sacred places in India.

I made a resolution to do things differently. Using my first paycheck, I reserved a flight to Hawaii so that my parents, sister, and I could just soak up the sun and maybe do a bit of scuba diving. To placate my father, I even planned a trip to Pearl Harbor. But really, all I wanted was some R&R—rest and relaxation.

But my father, who I think is the model for “all work and no play makes Johnny dull,” protested. He said that the trip was a waste of time and money. Indeed, he suggested that we go to Gandhi camp this summer.

Didn’t the great Mahatma ever go on vacation?

Dear Friend,

“A Western journalist asked, “Mr. Gandhi, you have been working fifteen hours a day for fifty years. Don’t you think you should take a vacation?” And the tireless great soul replied with a toothy smile, “I am always on vacation.”  (M. K. Gandhi)

To be candid, I do not know if the above exchange actually took place or is apocryphal. But either way, the quotation gets to the point that during Gandhiji’s time, vacation was not a terribly meaningful concept. Indeed, this whole idea of leaving one’s work for an extended period of time is a fairly recent invention, and has for the most part been in the province of the leisurely class.

If one strives to find one’s calling, and, like Gandhiji, is fortunate enough to find it, where is the cause to escape your vocation for a vacation? To be sure, taking time to reflect and consider the direction one is going is of tremendous value. But sitting on the beach may be a simpleminded act of following the crowd rather than following your bliss.

Perhaps for your father, lifelong education (his and yours) is his bliss, and thus he might believe that continuous learning is like Gandhiji’s comment about being “always on vacation.” For others, lifelong commitment to the environment might mean traveling the world to discover the most efficient means of using and conserving water and energy; others might think they’re always working, but these committed environmentalists might just feel that they’re “always on vacation.”

And, of course, we writers are constantly on the search for a new idea to contemplate and translate into a column, a poem, a short story, or a novel. We might find that idea while cooking, while at the office, while at a baseball game, or while on the beach in Hawaii. So were we working in the Kitchen or in Kauai? Or were we on vacation in both places?

[Dr. Rajesh C. Oza serves as a consultant to organizations and individuals requiring change leadership. We invite questions for consideration in the PMG column at raj_oza@hotmail.com.]

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