This is going to be another of those disjointed, self-revelatory, “pondering the meaning of life” things I’m compelled to post once in a while. If you don’t like those, don’t click on the “more” link. I’ll be back with something more “lite” soon enough.
The reason I asked about passions the other day was that I find myself without any.
I’d had a conversation the day before with someone who loves musical theater. I also loved (or used to love) musicals. But not like she did.
From a young age she flung herself into them, singing and dancing and eventually ending up with the opportunity to choose between a pair of high-status scholarships, one in a complex intellectual field, the other in voice.
At the age where she was a passionate superachiever, I was a shy, fearful underachiever. Though mad for modern dance, I merely played at it when nobody but my other dance-mad friend could see. Though dazzled by the wonders of musicals, I merely watched.
Well, not everybody’s a superachiever and not everybody’s going to plunge into everything.
You might say I did the best I could with what I had. I took the shy rebel’s course and opted for art and writing and for a lifetime pursuit of being skeptical of authority. But even those things I didn’t pursue with passion.
I learned at a young age to associate passion with hearbreak, anger (either feeling it myself or being its target), and failure. Life was a constant drama — and not in a good way.
Once I reached the point of taking charge of my own life, the only thing I was truly passionate about was being left alone — both in the freedomista political sense and the sense of not wanting to be dragged into crisis, intrigue, violent rages, psychodramas, addictions, physical assaults, emotional rivalries, dramatic brooding, passive-aggressive game-playing or any of the other inventive ways we humans come up with to make life interestingly miserable.
Looking back, I don’t know how I landed in adulthood as a reasonably sane, well-adjusted person. But my passionate quest to avoid passion certainly had something to do with that.
Partly this is just me being an introvert. With an introvert’s brain, I can sit alone in an armchair in an empty room and be so totally engaged I don’t need anything else to keep me going. What looks boring from the outside can, at times, be so stimulating that I have to do something to numb myself and slow my brain down.
The last thing I need now is to get passionate about anyone or anything. How freaking exhausting!
Some of your answers to my passion question were wonderful. But I most identified with Karen’s thoughtful observation about how nice it can be not to feel passionate.
And as she says, part of that does come with age. (And, I would add, with wisdom.) In a way, being passionate implies being incomplete, while lacking passion says, “Life is good. I’m content.”
Having a nice little life (which I do) may not inspire great art or poetry. But then, great artists and poets have a habit of dying young and dramatically after living fast and wretchedly. Life is good. I’m content.
Yet … There’s something missing. Something I want. Something I can’t quite define.
Well, that’s being human, isn’t it? We long for things beyond our grasp. The grass is always greener and all that.
Photographers often describe seeing their lives in a series of frames, each place, each event, each person a collection of discrete, well-composed images. I’ve even heard them describe catastrophes that way. The bus that’s about to hit them head on is, in their minds, a series of click-click-clicks. The earthquake that knocks them to their knees amid a hail of shattered glass and broken masonry is click-click-click, a chain of blurred images.
Being a writer, I automatically place everything into a narrative. Life happens as a story I relate to myself (and of course sometimes relate to others).
Brains. They’re funny things.
All this is perfectly normal, but it’s also a way of distancing oneself from the actual experience. When you’re “composing the shot” or finding the right words to open the “story,” you’re not fully living the experience. (Which, in the case of that onrushing bus, may be a good thing. But just sayin’.)
I long to immerse myself fully in … something wonderful.
I fear to immerse myself because full immersion is … drowning.
Yet here I am on the short end of life (a place I never thought I’d be). And I want full immersion. In something beautiful, something powerful, something grand.