Futurist Barbara Marx Hubbard coined the phrase “vocational arousal” to describe the thrill that occurs when you meet a person whose sense of purpose fuels your own. This occurred for her when Jonas Salk asked her to discuss her concept of co-creation, which exactly matched his dream for a new conversation about humanity:
This excitement happens when you meet somebody whose purpose activates your own. I call that supra-sexual. I was aroused, I had a vocational arousal. Because the vocation is the genius of the individual wanting to be expressed. And that’s as powerful as the genetic code wanting to be expressed sexually. In fact many women know it’s more powerful. It’s more important to us to have a vocation than it is to have a child.I don’t want to argue the relative importance of childbearing and finding a vocation or calling in life. But I do want to propose vocational arousal as a good phrase to describe the work we share as goddess scholars and myth-builders.
I believe that many women experience arousal in the process of discovering a passion for “the work”—whether it is art, or translating ancient texts, or researching nearly-lost traditions of myth or folklore. If seeing a photo of a newly discovered Venus figure makes your eyes widen to take it all in—that’s arousal. If you heart races when you hear someone describe modern reverence for an ancient goddess or heroine—that’s arousal too.
I would bet that many women reading this have had the experience of getting goose-bumps when they hear someone speak in a way that is exactly true for them. Think about what arousal really is—the response of the body, the whole body, the wild self. It’s that pesky, inconvenient physical response that women have when they are trying to “think” their way through patriarchal interactions. It is what we have been taught to suppress in order to make ourselves acceptable. Our bodies and the feelings they generate are what makes us suspect in a left-brained culture—and they are also what gives us our power.
Vocational arousal refers to embodied work. My passion for prehistoric goddess figures isn’t found just in my head. It arouses my eyes, to see better and more completely. It arouses my hands, which want to hold what I see. It arouses my body to move toward that sudden irrefutable truth, toward the ancient record of our being, toward the wholeness for which there are no words.
I invite women who find themselves aroused by any aspect of goddess scholarship to embrace the truth of the body, which never leaves us. Let’s permit ourselves to be giddy with excitement. Let’s celebrate each other’s vocational arousal the way we would celebrate each other’s birthdays. Finding a vocation of body and spirit is too important to be denied. It fuels the genius that challenges and changes our world.
And, as Hubbard says, “A woman who is totally given to that genius within herself is an irresistible force.”
(Quotations from Barbara Marx Hubbard come from her interview in Crone Chronicles, Spring Equinox, 1994)