A few months ago I read and reviewed Karen Armstrong’s memoir The Spiral Staircase here. At the time I never imagined that I would have the opportunity of meeting her. Imagine my delight, then, when she announced that she would use her TED (Technology, Education, and Design Prize Money) to create a Charter for Compassion–and even greater excitement when I learned that the Fetzer Institute would become a partner in that effort.
I encourage you to watch the video below and promise the 21 minutes will go by fast. If you don’t have that much time, you can watch the wonderful short video of the charter itself, read by people from many countries, religions, and all ages.
As a result of our partnership with TED and Karen,my colleagues Susan and Gillian participated in the Launch of the Charter, and the three of us traveled to NYC to talk with TED folks and Karen herself to plan another meeting in January.
I hope to ask Karen about the role her memoir writing played in the selection of the Charter as her life work. In the TED prize video above Karen reiterates the stories she tells in her memoir about how failures led to finding her calling in life. Her love of learning, distaste for fundamentalism and oppressive hierarchy, and discovery of compassion as the root of all religion eventually overcame all the obstacles to her first two career choices–the nunnery and the academy. Today she is one of the most widely known writers and speakers on the subject of religion in the world.
Memoir writing done well leads to a clarifying of one’s purpose in life. I can think of no better example of this than Karen Armstrong’s memoirs leading to the Charter for Compassion.
Perhaps career counseling should include the writing of a memoir. What was the shape of your spirit in your youth? Are you answering the call of your own uniqueness in your life and in your work?