Reflections on passion
(Note: This post originally appeared on my blogspot blog here. Datestamped footnotes with commentary may have been added for my own reflection and amusement.)
Last weekend I was involved in one of those late night philosophical conversations that pop up occasionally, this one involved the subject of having a passion in life and what exactly that means. As a result of this conversation I realized that I don’t really have a capital P level ‘Passion’ as most people define it, and I also realized I’m perfectly fine with that.
Part of the discussion revolved around how my friend and bandmate’s one driving focus is music- it’s all he wants to do with his life and monopolizes most of what he’s thinking about, and my drive in no single area is anywhere near as strong as that. There was some discussion of ‘passion envy,’ and while I do admire that sort of singular drive, and recognize that it’s responsible for the great art that I love so very much, I don’t necessarily wish I had it.
I love to play music, and I’d like to get much better at both playing and writing and learning new instruments, but barring a life crisis or some huge shift of luck it will probably remain a hobby I spend an unusual amount of time and money on. In a way, I’m patterned after Sponge from Salute Your Shorts. I love to read and absorb as much information as possible on every possible subject- music, current events, politics, science, technology, literature, stupid trivia, everything. Like Depeche Mode, I just can’t get enough.
If anything I don’t have a ‘Passion’ because my passion is spread too thin across too many pursuits, but I like it that way. I love to write even though most of my writing is on this blog that probably gets just a few readers. I love to try and get back into shape even though the past couple years have shown that I’m not very successful at it. I will keep slogging my increasingly bad knees to the gym at irregular intervals. I do have the ability to focus intently on a pursuit, but I’m not as astute at honing that focus on more than one thing at a time. But, I think part of that reason is that my brain is always seeking that next new thing to whet its appetite, and I think for me that’ll do just fine. I’m happy enough being a jack of all trades, close to a master of a few.
The other, intertwined subject of this conversation was how we as individuals are going to be remembered. Without a driving passion to create something truly great, how am I going to leave a legacy? I think every philosophy has something to lend to the idea of leaving something behind for those still on this mortal coil after someone is shuffled off of it, and I put a lot of credence in the idea of making a mark and being remembered. However, my thinking on this in the past few years seems to be influenced by two quotes, the first of which is from a speech by Carl Sagan in regards to the picture at the top of this post:
We succeeded in taking that picture [from deep space], and, if you look at it, you see a dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever lived, lived out their lives. The aggregate of all our joys and sufferings, thousands of confident religions, ideologies and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilizations, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every hopeful child, every mother and father, every inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every superstar, every supreme leader, every saint and sinner in the history of our species, lived there on a mote of dust, suspended in a sunbeam.
The second quote is one that one of my oldest friends likes to use that is actually old Honest Abe quoting an ancient eastern society, although Wikipedia says the origin is attributed in a few different places:
It is said an eastern monarch once charged his wise men to invent a sentence, to be ever in view, and which should be true and appropriate in all times and situations. They presented him with the words, ‘And this, too, shall pass away.’ How much it expresses! How chastening in the hour of pride! How consoling in the depths of affliction!
Both of these statements have shaped my personal belief that eventually the greatest accomplishments in this lifetime will be swept away, but if anything that drives me to try and accumulate the knowledge and create whatever creative works I can and share them with people I care about while I’ve got my shot.
I know many people will draw many different conclusions from that sort of an idea and I’m also aware it’s nothing revolutionary in a theological or philosophical sense, but it gives me a bit of direction. I am extraordinarily thankful for the creative geniuses, a couple of whom I’ve written about in previous entries, who often destroy themselves under the weight of their own passion for their art or their science- without them there would be much less love to spread around.
In the end I realized my goal is to end up as a less literal, somewhat higher-brow version of Earl Hickey. I’ve got a quite a ways to go, but I suppose that can be my ‘Passion.’ Given how things have been going recently for me, I need to be a bit more proactive, but personally I think it’s good to take stock of that personal philosophy occasionally and get re-centered.