One of the cool things about getting some books to review is that I often receive books I probably would never have read otherwise. There are just so many books that I want to read that reading triage can be quite difficult. The Listening Heart: Vocation And the Crisis of Modern Culture by A.J. Conyers is a book that I more-than-likely not known about or read, but I am glad that I did. One great thing abut reading some books is that you are introduced more deeply in a subject you might not have thought too much about and are able to tap into the experience and thoughts of someone who has done this.
This book is a critique of modern culture and how it is that the loss of the sense of vocation has contributed to problems. He uses vocation in the wider sense of being called and not in the sense of what he refers to as "monastic vocations" or how Catholics would use the term also referring to marriage and the single life. The loss of God in culture of course results in a loss of the sense of vocation. Going through history he aptly shows how this disconnect of loss of vocation, that we are called from something outside ourselves, has damaged culture. Radical individualism is one of the fallouts from the so-called enlightenment that has infected everyone. Christians who should know that they are called often fall for this individualism. I have often thought how absurd the idea of the self-made man is, yet it is one we usually accept without question.
Much of his critique of modern culture rings true to me and I especially enjoyed his chapters on distraction and attention that really highlighted for me some of the problems and especially how modern culture is a distracted one. We live in a culture that often talks about community, connectedness, social networking, etc where very little true community actually exists and where we elevate acquaintances to friends and have very few true friends. It is also interesting how he displays how this loss of vocation results in everything being seen in terms of power and how the modern interpretation of tolerance leads to this.
A.J. Conyers who died in 2004 of cancer was a theology professor at Baylor University and he finished this book just before he died. There is a Protestant perspective in part of what he writes, but he frequently refers to St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, and other Catholic theologians and he also often refers to the writings of Flannery O’Connor in this work. The subject matter of the book and the critique is a Christian perspective and one that does not suffer from church/denomination divides.
I consider a good book as one that helps you to see something you didn’t see before or to see something more clearly. By that definition this is certainly a good book.