A friend told me that someone asked him: “What’s your one true passion in life?”
He faltered. He didn’t say the thing he thought he was supposed to. And that worried him.
Here’s what would go on inside my head if somebody asked me that:
This person is asking me if I have passion.
Not just general passion, but something I’ve picked out that is specifically my one true passion.
Having passion seems important.
There is such a thing as a ‘true’ passion.
That means there is such a thing as a ‘false’ passion.
Other people obviously have this true passion.
Others have false passion. Others have no passion at all.
If I don’t have a true passion in my life, I’m only half a person. A zombie. I’m worthless.
Either that or I’m a lier.
I need to say that I have a true passion in my life.
If I don’t say that I have a true passion in my life, this person is going to be disappointed in me.
I don’t want to seem disappointing.
Maybe I should ask them what their passion is first.
Asking them what their passion is will make it seem as if I’m stalling.
What is ‘passion’ anyway?
Passion is love. Passion could be sex.
I can’t say “sex”.
Passion shouldn’t be fleeting. It should be constant.
Writing should be my one passion. I’ve chosen to do it. I feel surges of passion when I get it right. I feel great when I’ve finished something.
But writing is hard and I think it’s always going to be hard. I don’t naturally return to my desk to ‘activate passion’. I don’t do that yet.
Should passion be hard?
Maybe passion should be hard.
Maybe passion shouldn’t be hard. Maybe it’s something you do without thinking about it, because you love it.
I could say “sex”. Maybe they’d go away then.
What is it that I return to?
Is that what passion is? Something you always return to?
I think I’m passionate about running.
Running is hard.
I always play guitar. I could play guitar all day without effort. No effort at all.
I’m passionate about playing the guitar.
But I don’t make money out of playing guitar. Nobody hears me play guitar but me and my family, from another room.
I’ve failed at my passion.
Should making money be a measure of whether or not you’re ‘doing’ your passion?
I can’t say that playing guitar is my passion because I don’t have anything to show for it.
I can’t say that writing is my passion because it seems like a lie.
Whatever I say is going to sound disappointing.
Does any of that sound familiar?
Our days have become filled with questions like these. They’re hybrids; strands of Eastern philosophy weaved through the Western culture of self. They seem to be universal, questions that bind us to some bigger part of ourselves, something that gives us a sense of what it might feel like to be spiritual in a world where we’ve lost the ability to feel that way naturally. They don’t really make sense outside of now.
Vocation is a word that’s used a lot. It’s from the Latin vocātiō, which means “a call” or “summons”. I know that because I just Googled it. I don’t speak Latin.
Joseph Campbell said: ‘follow your bliss’.
What bliss would a coder follow if she was born in 1514? What would call her?
What would she do without a computer? Apply logic?
And before logic was a thing, what would she do? What would call her? Counting?
And before numbers?
Would Bach be a DJ now? What would he have been in a cave? Would the same thing have called him to produce the music of the universe using rocks and dried animal gut?
Would people have cheered? Would they have wept when they heard him play a fugues on a tree stump?
Maybe your vocation – your passion – is just a blend of distractions applied using the conventions and technologies of the time in which you live. So passion, really, is just a pleasant distraction.
Stop being self-consciousness, ignore the modern idea of PASSION + INCOME = SUCCESS and you’ll find a dozen things that you’re passionate about. Kids, family, laughing, seawater, open skies, swearing, hills, films, noises, words, shouting, silence, kicking, leaping, lying still, smelling oranges, having sex.
Your passion is whatever happily distracts you. Whatever makes you happy. Whatever doesn’t feel like work.
That’s not what people want to hear, though.
Just say sex.