What on earth is a lapsometer? That is where our Vocare evening began last night.
A table of therapists, after all—psychiatrists, counselors, social workers, psychologists, in many different ways people with vocations that care for the well-being of others. One more time a conversation about calling, this time the calling to listen carefully and to speak wisely.
One of Walker Percy’s best books is “Love in the Ruins,” the story of a psychiatrist, Tom More, a fictional descendent of Sir Thomas More, “the man for all seasons.” In the course of his work he develops the qualitative-quantitative ontological lapsometer—and asked “What is a lapsometer?” More responds, “It measures lapses, of course. In the soul.”
For a while we talked about the questions, “What is a person anyway? And what is a soul?” And then those questions became other questions: “So what is it we measure? What metrics do we use? How do we know if we have been helpful? What does transformation look like?” And so as we ate, we pondered, listening to and speaking to each other. A community of practice, being born.
At the end of the evening, I offered Simone Weil, as I often do. Her visionary life keeps working its way through mine. Reflecting on the common calling of attending to people that drew us all to the table, we finished with Weil’s wisdom about “paying attention.” She argued that the truest learning is always about learning to see things as they really are. When we do that, she believed that we are seeing sacramentally, viz. we see the reality of heaven and earth touching each other, teaching us about the other, about the way things really are—if we have eyes to see.
At the end of the day, the most skillful therapists see truthfully. They are able to wade through the junk and mess—to see the lapses for what they are –and see what is honestly going on in our lives. When that happens, true transformation can take place, and that is always a grace.
The longer, deeper healing of hurts and histories is mysteriously twined together in the sacramental life, when heaven and earth meet in a human heart. Being there, paying attention to what is and to what can be, is what the vocation of therapist is all about.