The Knights Who Say, "Good Job, Brother"
"Do you want to do intellectual work? Begin by creating within you a zone of silence, a habit of recollection, a will to renunciation and detachment which puts you entirely at the disposal of the work; acquire that state of soul unburdened by desire and self-will which is the state of grace of the intellectual worker. Without that you will do nothing, at least nothing worth while.
Is it not natural that the man of vocation should put away his everyday man; that he should throw off everything of him: his frivolity, his irresponsibility, his shrinking from work, his material ambitions, his proud or sensual desires, the instability of his will or the disordered impatience of his longings, his over-readiness to please and his antipathies, his acrimonious moods and his acceptance of current standards, the whole complicated entanglement of impediments which block the road to the True and hinder its victorious conquest?
An intellectual must always be ready to think, that is, to take part in a part of the truth conveyed to him by the universe, and prepared for him, at such a turning-point, by Providence. 'The Spirit passes and returns not.' Happy the man who holds himself ready not to miss, nay rather to bring about and to utilize, the miraculous encounter!
What is true of acquisition and pursuit was true of the call at the beginning of our career. After the lingering hesitation of youth, which is so often tormented and perplexed, we had to reach the discovery of ourself, the perception of that secret urge within us, which is directed towards some distant result of which we are not yet clearly conscious. Do you imagine that this is easy? Listening to oneself is a formula that amounts to the same thing as listening to god. It is in the creative Thought that our true being lies, our *self* in its authentic shape. Now this is truth of our eternity ... is revealed to us only in the silence of the soul — that is, in exclusion of foolish thoughts which lead to a puerile and dissipating indulgence in distraction, in the repression of the murmured suggestions that our disordered passions never weary of uttering.
Vocation calls for response which, in one effort to surmount self, hears and consents.
It will be the same with the choice of means to success: one's lifestyle, one's friends, the organization of one's time, the place to given to contemplation and to action, to one's specialty, to work and to recreation, to necessary concessions and to stern refusals, to the concentration that strengthens the mind and the broader studies that enrich it, to aloofness and to contacts: contacts with men of genius, with one's own group, with nature, or with others in general social life, and so forth. These things can only be wisely judged ... when we are close to the eternally true, far from the covetous and passionate self.
Great men seem to us men of great boldness; in reality they are more obedient than others."
— Selections from The Intellectual Life, by A. G. Sertillanges