Guitars on their way to Nashville. It is hard to imagine more iconic luggage and destination.So many people over so many years have made the same pilgrimage, hopes deep in their hearts. I am sure that more have driven than flown, but it is true that in the years I have coming here, I have never gotten on a plane without seeing a guitar or two or three get on with me,

Without dreams, we perish, which is as true of persons as it is of polities. I suppose that is the main reason I have long been interested in what people long after; it is as Augustine understood, i.e. that our longings and loves tell us the truest truths about ourselves. We can ask lots of questions of each other, and learn. But it is only when we ask about our longings and loves that we learn what it is that matters most to us.

Sometimes it seems that I have spent most of my life reflecting on the meaning of vocation and what it takes to sustain a vocation. Every one of us thinks about this in one way or another. Who am I? and what I should I do? But seeing these guitars also made me think about the nature of our dreams, and the future of our hopes. Can I get someone to listen to me? Will I really be good enough? How long will it take me? Do I have enough money to make it? What will I do if I don’t?

I have gotten to know musicians here who have spent years working at Starbucks, making lattes and handing out cds, hoping against hope that someone someday will listen. And that does happen, every once in a while– but mostly not. Do you stay around, and find your way into the business of music, just not the making of it? Do you go home then?

This business of knowing ourselves, of knowing what we can do and should do, is hard to figure out on our own. I don’t think we do. Even yesterday I had a long conversation with someone who is conflicted about his vocation and his occupation. What is what? Are they the same? If I chose this, what would that mean for the rest of my life? Should I feel guilty if I choose this? And even more deeply, who am I? and what should I do? He is almost 50, and doesn’t play a guitar, at all, but after years of good work he is still trying to answer his heart, full of hopes as it is.

In many different ways, I think that is true for most of us.

Steven Garber is the Senior Fellow for Vocation and the Common Good for the M. J. Murdock Charitable Trust. A teacher of many people in many places, he continues to serve as a consultant to colleges and corporations, facilitating both individual and institutional vocation. A husband, a father and a grandfather, a he has long lived in Washington DC, living a life among family, friends, and flowers.

Meet Steve