Jim Sparrell, IMA faculty member, recently spoke about the connections between vocation and avocation when he delivered the Commencement Address for the August, 2009 graduation of the Individualized MA Program. A psychologist who specializes in narrative therapy, and works with both children and adults, Jim often finds himself examining how we can reinvent the stories we live throughout our lives.
“I think in our culture, you work becomes your story: you are a psychologist, you are a doctor, you are a lawyer, and that can become oppressive. You have to carry that on as opposed to being a person who does other things in your life.” The IMA program at Goddard is a place, he explains, where people can reinvent their lives according to what they believe and what they can offer to the world. In terms of cultivating the freedom to rewrite our own stories, Jim has found great value in narrative therapy, which helps people see their stories both as their personal lives and in the context of a community and a culture.
Jim explains that looking at the layers of what shapes the stories we live gives us more avenues for greater insight and flexibility. “Another thing about narrative approaches is that it gives us ways of looking at and thinking about how to revise the story. One of the phrases that's used is “thickening the plot” because we often simplify – people are on the left or the right for example – and that makes for really lousy, deadend stories. So if we can see the story in terms of its complexity, it makes for very interesting and complicated stories, which is where we all live.”
Jim lives out the many layers of his story not just as a Goddard faculty member, school psychologist, and clinical psychologist, but as a gardener, crocheter of scrubbies (great and colorful disks he crochets for washing dishes with all profits going to charity), lover of cats, music affectionado, writer, and biker. In all of this, he finds his life's work an amalgam of vocation and avocation: “Whether I'm crocheting scrubbies or making jams or gardening, it feels to me as meaningful and important as working in the school and doing counseling, writing, and all the other activities I do.”
Listen to the podcast of Jim Sparrell reading part of his commencement address for the 2009 IMA graduation. Thanks to Katie Towler for pictures of Jim at work and at play.