It’s currently 75 degrees and raining large, heavy droplets here in Hanover. I’ve spent a fair amount of time the past few days hanging out here, doing a lot of thinking, and a fair bit of talking along with it. It may not all be coagulated enough to put down in written form, but I’m going to give it a shot, because it’s an important subject. Of course, the subject itself is somewhat amorphous, multifaceted, and subject to interpretation. You could call it living an authentic or genuine life, but I prefer calling it living a passionate life.
As some are aware, I define being a geek as being genuinely interested and engaged by a subject. Theater Geeks, Movie Geeks, Anime Geeks, Book Geeks, these are all valid descriptions, but likewise there are Sports Geeks, Fashion Geeks, Social Geeks (not an oxymoron!), and these are just as valid, though we generally give them other names, like “jock”, “fashion maven”, and “socialite”. It all comes down to the same thing, however: being passionate about a subject and having it interest you so much that you learn all you can about it. It becomes a part of your life. You grok your passion.
Everyone has something that they are passionate about. It can vary wildly, and can even be unexpected to those around you. I’ve met people who are fascinated by the process of sewage treatment and water purification in the same way that I might talk about games. You never know what people are passionate about, and that act of wondering is a way that we can connect with others. A case in point; yesterday, I got to rambling about this topic in front of Collis, and randomly asked the girls at a table nearby what they were passionate about. Once they decided I wasn’t a nut-job (or at least a harmless one), the results were quite fascinating. These were people I’d never spoken with before, and yet when asked to talk about their passions, their eyes lit up and the conversation became animated. That passion for a subject is infectious, it becomes interesting to those around you whether they themselves share that passion or not. This is the power of passion.
That’s all pretty straightforward. Where I get all ranty and foaming at the mouth is the question of what we do with those passions. How many people are we surrounded by who are enthralled by a subject or topic or medium, but is never willing to take the step outside the safety net to actually pursue that as a profession? We go to college because that’s what we’re supposed to do. We get jobs that we hate because that’s what we’re supposed to do. Our passions are naysayed as too difficult, unattainable, unlivable, not just by those around us, but by ourselves, because we’re so afraid of stretching ourselves outside of complacency. For the most of us, the annoyance of living in the box is outweighed by the pain and fear of breaking out, and being who we want to be. If you have a passion for writing, be a writer. Write every damn day. Read other writing, read about writing, write stories, your thoughts, how your day went, that dream you had, a story, a poem, write about writing, write about reading. Live it, breathe it, embrace your passion, and it will embrace you. If you’re worried about it not being good enough or that it’s hard, or that there isn’t enough time in the day or that you want to watch your favorite television show or you want to go to that party, then ask yourself why you’re worried, and DO something about it. Afraid of the quality? WRITE MORE. Want to watch that show? Write about it, make it a project. It’s not just writing, either, it’s ANY passion. If you want to make art, bleed ink and paint. Don’t relegate it to a wistful sigh and a hobby, MAKE ART. If you aren’t pursuing your passions, then you deserve any unhappiness you receive.
If you think that’s unfair, then I have to ask what you’re so afraid of that you would deny your passion, your potential for the delusion of safety. That’s not contentment, and it’s certainly not happiness; it’s complacency. It is one thing to let that which does not matter slide. This is not such a case, however. It matters. It’s your passion, it’s your interest, it’s a part of your LIFE, and to deny it, to relegate it to the sidelines is denying a part of yourself. I do not see how that could be driven by anything but fear, or some form of self-destruction. Complacency is the antithesis of passion. Care to see what complacency and fear do? Here’s a social experiment for you to do: sit on a bench on a street and look at people. Look them in the eye, and see the reactions. It doesn’t matter if you’re well dressed or in rags, angry looking or with a smile on your face, nine times out of ten, the other individual will look away. Some can be explained away by conversations or other distractions, but that sort of ratio is simply too large to argue away. (For the record, out of roughly 100 people I tried this with last night, only 3 actually acknowledged the eye contact, all others looked away. Your mileage may vary.)
What drives that sort of behavior, that shrinking away from the possibility of contact or acknowledgment? My belief is that we shrink away from contact because we are afraid of having our world view shaken, of being stretched beyond the bounds of whatever box we’ve chosen for ourselves. To communicate with others inherently holds the potential of being challenged, and that scares people. We mitigate this as much as we can by surrounding ourselves with the like-minded, in classes, conferences, workplaces, social gatherings. How often do we just stop and ask someone on the street how they’re doing, what they’re interested in? Why not? Are we afraid that we might be judged? Why does it matter if we are? It’s just someone on the street, there is no illusory status lost from a conversation not panning out. It is, at worst, a missed chance at enrichment and engagement. You have not LOST anything. Those who talk to strangers live the fullest lives.