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June 11th, 2020
What is the character of passion? What are its mechanics? How does it start? Does it grow? Does it ebb and flow? Does passion ever die?
We tend to think of passion like talent, or beginner’s luck. It’s something that somehow seems fully formed from the start, as though it’s something your born with. Much the same way talent is regarded. This is a lazy farce. It’s a story we tell ourselves to let ourselves off the hook. The story allows us to believe that if we aren’t gripped by incredible feelings to pursue some specific goal, then we simply don’t have a passion, or that talent. We have trained ourselves to expect things prepackaged, but nothing emerges fully formed, and what seems to just has the illusion of such.
A butterfly might seem fully formed when it breaks out of its chrysalis, but this is only after a huge transformation, and entire different life as a caterpillar in preparation for the change. Even more noteworthy is how radically different a butterfly looks when compared to it’s former caterpillar form, the two could not be more different. One has giant beautiful wings, and the other is fat and furry.
Perhaps, this analogy of the butterfly can inform our question about passion: what if the birth of passion, and it’s early stages look nothing like the final form?
Take for instance something more common, like running, or riding a bike. Many people find these activities very enjoyable and even rely on such activities for feelings of wellbeing. Such activities need not be passions, but we can still likewise ask: did such activities start out so enjoyable?
No, definitely not. We all struggled to stand, and probably every last one of us cried after falling when trying to take our first steps. Likewise with riding a bike. Most of us, when the training wheels were taken off, had a spill here and there that left us crying and confused.
All skills and talents we might pursue start like this. The little kid looking sideways at their own bad drawing is just as easily driven by a sense of frustration that it’s not better as by the enjoyment of actually putting pencil or paintbrush to paper. Learning, by default, is a confusing and anxious experience that puts us in intimate proximity with our own insecure limits. Before we’ve gained any competency, we are at the mercy of feeling inadequate.
It’s only long after competency is established does a skill sharpen to a point where other people begin to notice something special, extra-ordinary, and worthy of being referred to as a talent, or a passion.
The embryo of passion is like anything else we’ve learned to do: it’s an experience of difficulty and confusion. The beginning stages of passion lack all the flare and color that we associate with the accomplishments of people who we deem talented. What we see is only the compounded value of so many hours and days and years of practice and work.
All of us have latent passions: skills and goals, hobbies and projects that we just don’t work on enough. Such things only move forward when we actually put our attention to them on a consistent daily basis. Otherwise, they can remain embryos while life passes us by.