When Calling includes Entertainment

"I travel here and there giving talks, make people feel safe or excited, and help them come to terms with their feelings of loss, failure, and anguish, as well as their feelings of growth, success, and joy. Am I -- like circus people -- an entertainer?  Do I try to hold people up in between the many fragmented moments of their lives and give them a glimpse of "the beyond?"  

It fascinates me that the word entertainment comes from the latin words inter (between) and tenere (to hold.)  What's wrong with being an entertainer?  Isn't Jesus the greatest of all entertainers?  Isn't he holding people up in a life that constantly wants to go flat?  Didn't Jesus come from another world and travel from place to place to let people look up for a moment and relize that there is more to life than they might have thought?"
 -- Henri Nouwen, in the New Oxford Review, June 1993

I suspect that the edginess I get around the possibility of entertainment has to do with the fine line between entertainment and marketing, and the other, even finer, line between marketing and selling.  Yes, the great televangelists have been consummate entertainers.  But where that goes wrong is when they use that charisma to get money for themselves.  Politicians must also be entertainers, aware of how they present, aware of what their audience wants and needs to hear.  But where that goes wrong is when they use that charisma to put money or favors into the hands of special interests -- including their own. 

And yet the circus performer, the spiritual director, the council candidate, the artist and the farmer all need to draw attention to themselves if they are to support themselves and succeed at what they do.  So doesn't that mean they need, at some level, to be entertainers; to promote their work and draw attention to it; to spell out the essence of what they offer? 

It's a conundrum.  I'm thinking the only way we can stay on the right side of those fine lines is to be intentionally, constantly, present and conscious; always asking for discernment: Is this right?  Is this good?  What is my goal; what am I attempting to achieve?  Who benefits?  How could I strive for a better balance here?  What am I really offering?  And how am I being called to utilize my existing gifts and resources?


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