“I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.” -Albert Einstein
Walking beside the lake last night, it struck me how bleak life would if we never had a passion. Mine was words; the need to write was as strong as the sex drive. I knew I could do it. Lots of things I can’t do, more I do badly. But this one I knew I could do; I had flow.
Bill had the same rightness about flying. As he says, he can’t hit a ball, or dance, but give him a plane and he can do a night deck landing.
The saddest thing would be to live without enthusiasm, without the internal compass and the knowledge that we are using the instrument of our lives well. We are doing what we were born to do. Of course, there are so many tasks we bumble-finger our way through, mistakes, mismatches – put me with a keyboard and I will outwit even spell check. And passion means you are always stretching – and always at risk.
There are the downers: rejections, writer’s block, laziness; for Bill bad weather days in the crew room, exhausted search and rescue missions, where failure means a comrade is lost.
Passion isn’t always action; take Stephen Hawking, or my uncle who spoke 6 languages for the sheer joy of it. We have friends who have done mundane jobs, but whose minds even in their eighties are ever reaching for ideas or their hands painstakingly constructing model railways. I always remember an auto worker describing his days on the line, surely mind-numbingly dull. His face lit up as he described doing crossword puzzles in his head.
Synchronicity! It was no surprise to read The Dana Foundation‘s article about living a purpose-driven life. (Longer life; less dementia). It’s not, I think, a driven life, fuelled by stress and ambition, which turns out in the end to be empty. My father, a neurologist, at the end of his life dismissed his career, telling me that his successful friends didn’t talk about their life’s work, but about their grandchildren, their future.
I can also compare two friends in their eighties. Joe drifted from job to job, but always with a central theme: to make things work; John had a teaching career, but no passion. It was a living, no more. Now in old age, it is Joe who is sharp and engaged, a pile of abstruse books at his elbow; John says sadly that he can’t be bothered to do much – what’s the point?
Passion is the life force, living the flow. It’s not all the time, but those moments give a glimpse of the heart of eternity. Not always easy – root meaning of passion is suffering. But the word enthusiasm comes from the Greek el theos “divinely inspired.”
The Dana Foundation – New Movement in Neuroscience: A Purpose Driven Life by Adam Kaplin – link
Purpose in Life Self-Test – link