Leading Lives That Matter compiles a wide range of texts—from ancient and contemporary literature, social commentary, and philosophy—related to questions of vital interest for those who are trying to decide what to do with their lives and what kind of human beings they hope to become. This book draws upon both religious and secular wisdom, bringing these sources into conversation with one another.
Mark Schwehn and Dorothy Bass identify four vocabularies typically used in discussions of the meaning of life choices: authenticity, virtue, exemplarity, and vocation. Six guiding questions shape the chapters that contain the majority of the texts. Each chapter’s texts provide a variety of insights and approaches to be considered in addressing the question, arranged and introduced in ways that prompt deeper reflection. Leading Lives That Matter invites readers into arguments that have persisted for generations about what we human beings should do and who we should be.
This second edition includes forty-seven new readings from a diverse array of writers, including Toni Morrison, Kazuo Ishiguro, Denise Levertov, Malcolm Gladwell, Julia Alvarez, Alice Walker, Martin Luther King Jr., Pope Francis, and Chung Tzu. Three new guiding questions have also been added: To whom and to what should I listen as I decide what work to do? With whom and for whom shall I live? What are my obligations to future human and other life?
Table of Contents
PROLOGUE William James, “What Makes A Life Significant?” Vincent Harding, “I Hear Them . . . Calling”
PART I VOCABULARIES
AUTHENTICITY Charles Taylor, from The Ethics of Authenticity Parker Palmer, from A Hidden Wholeness Elizabeth Cady Stanton, “Solitude of Self” Thanissari Bhikku, “No-Self or Not-Self?” Ajahn Karunadhammo, “This Is Who I Am”
VIRTUE Aristotle, from Nicomachean Ethics Rebecca Konyndyk DeYoung, from Glittering Vices Josef Pieper, from Faith, Hope, Love Natalia Ginzburg, from The Little Virtues David Brooks, “The Moral Bucket List” Mencius, from The Sayings of Mencius Hsun Tzu, from Improving Yourself Edith Jones, “Patience”
EXEMPLARITY Linda Zagzebski, from Exemplarist Moral Theory Dorothy Day, from Therese Gordon Marino, “The Greatest” Madeline Miller, “False Counsellor”
VOCATION Denise Levertov, “Annunciation” Lee Hardy, from The Fabric of this World Gary Badcock, from The Way of Life C.S. Lewis, from “Learning in War-Time” Dietrich Bonhoeffer, from Ethics Frederick Buechner, from Wishful Thinking Will Campbell, from “Vocation as Grace” Chung Tzu, from Mastering Life
PART II QUESTIONS
1. Must my job be the primary source of my identity? Russell Muirhead, from Just Work Dorothy L. Sayers, “Why Work?” Gilbert Meilaender, from Friendship Toni Morrison, “The Work You Do, the Person You Are” Robert Frost, “Two Tramps in Mud Time” Marge Piercy, “To Be of Use” Stephen Dunn, “The Last Hours” Carl Dennis, “A Roofer” Kazuo Ishiguro, from The Remains of the Day
2. To whom and to what should I listen as I decide what work to do? Will Weaver, “The Undeclared Major” Amy Tan, “Two Kinds,” from The Joy Luck Club Tayeb Salih, A Handful of Dates Lois Lowry, from The Giver Willa Cather, “The Ancient Ones,” from The Song of the Lark Albert Schweitzer, “I Resolve to Become a Jungle Doctor” Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, from the screenplay of Good Will Hunting James Baldwin, “Sonny’s Blues”
3. With whom and for whom shall I live? Alasdair MacIntyre, from Dependent Rational Animals Kate Daniels, “Prayer for My Children" Malcolm Gladwell, “The Roseto Mystery” The Book of Ruth Jhumpa Lahiri, “My Two Lives” Toni Morrison, “Recitatif” Sullivan Ballou, a letter to his wife, 1861 Samuel Wells, “Rethinking Service” Martin Luther King Jr., from “The World House”
4. Is a balanced life possible and preferable to a life focused primarily on work? Abigail Zuger, “Defining a Doctor” Karen S. Sibert, “Don’t Quit this Day Job” Jane Addams, “Filial Relations,” from Democracy and Social Ethics William Butler Yeats, “The Choice” Homer, from The Iliad Martha Nussbaum, interviewed by Bill Moyers for “A World of Ideas” Hannah Boushey, from Home Economics Matt Bloom, “The Illusive Search for Balance” Wendell Berry, “Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front” Abraham Joshua Heschel, from The Sabbath
5. What are my obligations to future humans and other life? Larry Rasmussen, “A Love Letter from the Holocene to the Anthropocene” Rachel Carson, “A Fable for Tomorrow” Scott Russell Sanders, “Sanctuary” Camille Dungy, “Writing Home” Paul Laurence Dunbar, “The Haunted Oak” Wanda Coleman, “Requiem for a Nest” Anthony Walton, “Carrion” Natasha Trethewey, “Carpenter Bee” Winona LaDuke, from “Our Home on Earth” Wangari Maathai, from “Nobel Peace Prize Lecture” Pope Francis, from Laudato Si’: On Care for our Common Home Genesis 1-3 NRSV Ursula K. LeGuin, “She Unnames Them” Acoma Creation Myth Denise Levertov, “Beginners”
6. How shall I tell the story of my life? Robert Frost, “The Road Not Taken” Mary Catherine Bateson, from Composing a Life Julia Alvarez, from Something to Declare Wendell Berry, from Jayber Crow Alice Walker, from In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens Dan McAdams, “An American Life Story” Michael T. Kaufman, “Robert McG. Thomas, 60, Chronicler of Unsung Lives”
EPILOGUE Leo Tolstoy, The Death of Ivan Ilych
Mark R. Schwehn is senior research professor at Christ College, the honors college of Valparaiso University.
Dorothy C. Bass is the director of the Valparaiso Project on the Education and Formation of People in Faith, a Lilly Endowment project at Valparaiso University that develops resources to help contemporary people live the Christian faith with vitality and integrity in changing times.
“We are overwhelmed, we are self-absorbed, we feel melancholy emptiness—most of us and more often than we like. Yet we long for our lives to contribute to something truly great, something that transcends our individual selves. Here is an excellent tool that helps us reflect on how our lives acquire depth and weight, that offers guidance about who we should be and what we should do if we are to lead lives that truly matter.” — Miroslav Volf Yale Divinity School
“An elegantly crafted anthology and a treasure trove for the soul. Nuggets of insight, a gem of a story, or a strand of meaningful argument will capture your eye, reshape your heart and mind, and strengthen your resolve to listen more attentively—in the good company of these many authors—to the haunting, healing, creative sense of calling that yields the gift we call vocation—a life of meaning, purpose, and significance. Claim this book for yourself—and several more copies for the people you love.” — Sharon Daloz Parks author of Leadership Can Be Taught
“How can I earn a living while living a worthwhile life? Leading Lives That Matter includes some of the most insightful authors to write about this question in a contemporary (or timeless) idiom. . . . Highly recommended.” — Mark U. Edwards Jr. St. Olaf College
“Leading Lives That Matter speaks directly to the universal desire and urgent need to know what one should do and who one should be. Its broad range of texts, each aptly chosen and engagingly introduced, arms readers with a richer, more deeply textured vocabulary for thinking about these matters and with stunning models and examples of lives wonderfully lived.” — Leon and the late Amy Kass University of Chicago
“Humanizes the sometimes-daunting task of self-discovery and the work required to live a life of purpose.” — Congregations
“We recommend Leading Lives That Matter to parents, pastors, Sunday school teachers, and small group leaders. The book is centered on a topic of perennial importance, and instead of purporting to tell us how to live meaningfully, it invites us to join a conversation in order to develop wisdom in living.” — Critique
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