(Review of The Reinvention of Work: A New Vision of Livelihood for Our Time by Matthew Fox, originally published in Voices: The Art and Science of Psychotherapy, 2003.)
This is the first of Matthew Fox’s many book that I have read. Like many--perhaps most--good books I have read in the last 20 years, I snatched it from my wife’s bedside pile of reading-in-progress. Now I think I understand a bit more why so many people are excited about this guy.
The Reinvention of Work could well have been written by a psychotherapist. More specifically, it could have been written by a psychotherapist of the experiential/existential persuasion. Fox’s basis hypothesis is that we are all mystics of a sort, and that as such we must practice looking deep within ourselves to find the purpose or calling which animates each of our lives. This inner work of self-knowledge necessarily precedes and informs the outer work, which can be anything from digging ditches to making art. Doing the inner work leads to the resacralization and reenchantment of the outer work, and might just make possible the continued survival of our species, according to Fox.
It became clear to me that I wanted to write a review of this book for Voices when I realized that it contained a bit of a double whammy, and that this fact would give me an opening to make an observation about what I perceive to be the unique value of the American Academy of Psychotherapists (AAP). The double whammy is the one to which I alluded in the preceding paragraph. This is a book about the profound importance of finding one’s calling (first whammy) and depth psychotherapy is a very valuable way to go about this task (second whammy). What I want to observe about AAP is this: What is uniquely valuable about AAP is that it provides the opportunity to associate intimately and passionately with others who also regard psychotherapy as a calling. Thus it is an organization which provides us with the opportunity to come together to renew are faith and passion about living our lives this way, and about egging on our clients to do so as well.
It probably comes as no surprise that Matthew Fox puts a bit of a Catholic theological spin on all this. What is surprising, at least to me, is how unoffensively he does this. He of course makes connections to all the great spiritual traditions of the world, but his Catholic roots run deep and show up. He seems to have a great ability to examine life from the point of view of a particular frame of reference and make sense of why a person might adopt that frame of reference. Nowhere does this ability reveal itself more clearly than it does near the end of the book, where he examines work from the point of view of the traditional seven Catholic sacraments. I could not have named more than 2 or 3 of these before reading The Reinvention of Work, but I had no trouble seeing psychotherapy reflected meaningfully in each of them as he reviews them.