"Why didn't you answer me when I called?" Barbara wanted to know, standing there in the door of the rumpus room. She had the afternoon paper with her, the one in which Billy described his friends from Tralfamadore.
"I didn't hear you," said Billy.
The orchestration of the moment was this: Barbara was only twenty-one years old, but she thought her father was senile, even though he was only forty-six--senile because of damage to his brain in the airplane crash. She also thought that she was head of the family, since she had had to manage her mother's funeral, since she had to get a housekeeper for Billy, and all that. Also, Barbara and her husband were having to look after Billy's business interests, which were considerable, since Billy didn't seem to give a damn for business any more. All this responsibility at such an early age made her a bitchy flibbertigibbet. And Billy, meanwhile, was trying to hang onto his dignity, to persuade Barbara and everybody else that he was far from senile, that, on the contrary, he was devoting himself to a calling much higher than mere business.
He was doing nothing less now, he thought, than prescribing corrective lenses for Earthling souls. So many of those souls were lost and wretched. Billy believed, because they could not see as well as his little green friends on Tralfamadore.
A higher calling. That's what Billy Pilgrim believes that he has. His job is to open people's eyes. Life on other planets. He's a prophet of sorts. In his professional life, he corrected vision problems. Now, after a series of personal tragedies, he has made it his crusade to make the world understand the secrets of time and, concurrently, happiness.
I hear people talk about their "calling" all the time, from pastors to priests to teachers to nurses. It's an undeniable urge, usually to better the world in some way. I work in a medical office. Just sort of fell into that job, and I enjoy helping the patients. But it's not my calling. I teach college English. I love opening students' minds to new ideas. That sort of sounds like a calling. I'm a church musician. Enjoy it a great deal. It's a way to crack open people's hearts and souls. I suppose that's sort of a calling, as well. And, of course, I'm a poet and writer. That, I think, is my true calling.
Blog posts, my poetry and essays and stories, public readings--all of these things really fill me up, energize my mind and spirit. I think that's what a calling does. It doesn't empty the "called" out. It fills him/her up. I don't know if my writing has changed anything. I send words out into the world, like putting a note in a bottle and throwing the bottle into the sea. I don't know ever know where that bottle lands or if my note makes a difference.
But this, I believe, is my true calling. Writing. Chipping away at the injustices of the collective universe one syllable at a time.
Today, Saint Marty is grateful for words.