I recently had an email exchange with a colleague, who was sharing his frustrations about “following one’s passion.” It seems he’s looking critically inward at the alignment between his drives and motivations, and checking that against the reality of his actions.
Is change being made, or just spoken about?
He acknowledges the comfort of his siutation, which enables him to not have to act, but seems to be coming to a place where he chooses to act anyway. It may be more scary than philosophizing from the sidelines, but it means a direct experience of life.
I’ve been going through a similar thought/emotional process myself, and could relate to what I interpret as feelings of hypocrisy. The raising of self-awareness has been forcing me to ask myself continuously if I’m practicing what I preach, and realizing that if/when the answer is no, I’m best to just keep my mouth shut.
I was touched by this friend’s courage to face his own truth, and what appears to be a coming to terms with choosing what to *do* and not just what to say.
Below is his reflection, posted with permission.
And why is that i am still breathing?
Because the infrastructure i grew up in is so rich that my life-style is carried by the system. I could go on and keep waving with quotes, insights, links and really feel like producing something, contributing something. But it remains a shallow emotional activity subsidized by cheap energy.
Now the only way i could get real is to actually try stuff out. Get people to try these things that i envision and see if it results in anything interesting. But then i noticed that i kept telling the story of “i should really try it out”, but what i was actually doing was avoiding for that to happen. I am afraid the reality of it would prove me wrong – and rather than dumping years of thinking and visioning i can live a while longer with a state of “yes, i will try it out eventually, i am sure it works, let me keep thinking about it for now” to avoid the danger of being plain wrong.
I surely developed rhetorical mastery in going around that and keep the conversation going until everyone feels the reality of it just because of the shared reality of the conversation… not noticing that there has never been any substance other then the substance of the conversation itself. Charging of meaning-containers is a great way of creating shared reality, we talk so much about something until we actually think it’s true. And i CAN do that because of an intensely rich system where i can rely on cheap energy to transport my physicality around, give me warm water, food in the supermarket and all that – while i keep celebrating the adult version of my childhood-passion – my survival doesn’t depend on the goodness of my thoughts.
Well, that all to say that being passionated is a wonderful energetic state, certainly emotionally desirable – but it can be dangerous if it is an energy-subsidized childhood-extension because the system is rich enough to keep me alive in whatever random direction my emotionality takes me. And yes, maybe there are amazing things to harness at the end of some passion-tunnels, but what are the costs of running all these rich experiments on a planetary scale?
Should i rely on the approval of my ideas in a group? Is resonance in a social field enough to validate the truth or meaning of my idea?
Well, it certainly gives me motivation. But for every single possible idea that i could ever think of i WILL find people who resonate and are willing to from community around it – the number of all possible subgroups within the human population is very very high. Shared values, goals, beliefs or just shared experience… many ways to look at what glue’s together a group of people.
So IS the resonance of any group a good enough validation? Or am i really just seeking for mates and social warmth – fair enough, i guess i do to some degree. What do i really have to validate anything??
I know that i have shadows in me. I assume others have those as well, so my interest in thinking about governance- or decision-making models is to wipe out all possible selfish badness in other people… just because i can’t do it in myself? I can try heal outside what’s broken inside, but what if many do that at the same time…
So that’s where i am at; finding a way to validate ideas outside of passion, outside of the dependency on social resonance in groups and outside of rhetoric. That’s why i feel called to go into science. And yes, actually also into a simpler lifestyle – i would love to learn gardening and planning on taking a complete offline-time for a few months. Maybe that’s next after graduation…
And yes, there are things to do… and i really don’t know better.
Carsten Hucho said:
This sounds quite scary to me. It uncomfortably fits some of the objections to the ‘phraseology’ that I sometimes voiced. All this labeling, branding, wording, socializing, envisioning…. but what is the contents? Where is the beef?!
Get me right: I believe it is very important to gain awareness, some alignment, stature, confidence, to grow … but shouldn’t that be the environment for the real thing?
Shouldn’t we be *doing* something and add those additional values to what we do?
Shouldn’t we *be* a mechanic, a writer, a waiter, a brain-surgeon …. and encapsulate that in ‘being good’? Shouldn’t we start with our real, local, small work-infrastructure and adopt our big-world ideas there?
(thanks for the stimulating post!)
Being an artist isn’t so cut and dry as being a mechanic. You have to think abstractly, and everyday believe in the power of your arcane visions. I derive my motivation to break the cycle of:
“…yes, i will try it out eventually, i am sure it works, let me keep thinking about it for now” to avoid the danger of being plain wrong.”
By remembering that the system isn’t so rich for everyone, and that until it is there will be strife, and that while there is strife human potential is severely limited.
Idle hands are the Devil’s work is an analogy that relates well to the case of the talented artist, writer, or scientist who must choose to delay the noble dream of making the world better on a large scale in order to feel like they are fitting in to the “rich system”. Doing “just any normal work” doesn’t always feel like achievement to a creative or compassionate thinker. It can feel like you’re rolling a giant thoughtless ball in a random direction, perhaps even leaving destruction in your wake.
If you ask me, the real obvious problem of the day is our planet. How can we be 100% sure we won’t all be destroyed in 50 years? 100 years? I want to be sure we have a plan to expand human creative vision and ideology forever. The path to this enhanced safekeeping and empowerment of our culture leads through the technological emancipation of the world.
Sally Morem said:
Boy, I can really relate to “getting rid of the badness in others” while assuming I’m okay. I know I’m not and I know I don’t have that power and I know even the President doesn’t have that power and shouldn’t.
I think the best we can hope for as we build a sense of morality is to note that the best place for us flawed human beings to be is somewhere between selfishness and unselfishness, a place where what we’re doing (we know) will help us AND help others. Demands to be totally unselfish are unrealistic and probably damaging. While urges to be totally selfish are probably just as unrealistic, and probably referencing illegal acts as well. 🙂
Find that place in science where you know objectively and in your gut you are improving your own life and the lives of others. Then you’ll be reasonably sure you’re right.
Alvis Brigis said:
Passion is a component of a system that can be directed in many ways, through many behaviors. If max self-actualization is the goal, then perhaps delving into personality assessment tests like Myers Brigg and Enneagram and getting clear on your traits/prefs and how they are likely to play out behavior in social settings could prove useful. It’d be interesting and perhaps illuminating to compare how members of the EBD community compare on measurable traits.
Jeff Mowatt (@peoplecentred) said:
I remember my former colleague saying something about this. His university tutor had informed him to make something world changing happen, passion was not enough. It could only be achieved by affliction.
Rather than engage in discussion or write books he wanted to act on his affliction and in the end, perhaps it was this which killed him in his refusal to be deflected from a vision in spite of failing health.
The last person to see him alive relates how ho challenged organised crime and his own government:
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Dionne Lew said:
We don’t annihilate the shadow – we integrate it. The shadow is like water – we need it for life but it can also drown us. The shadow work is about helping the shadow to find its place in your psyche, that means, your awareness puts it properly in its place. We are always trying to fix on the outside what is damaged on the inside, that’s the wonderful alignment because it works both ways, what is happening on the outside also gives us cues to what we’re still trying to fix on the inside. By the time we heal the internal split, we know a lot about it, which is what enables us to share what we have learned with others. You are calling yourself on your own contradictions – this honesty is quite rare and will probably take you very far. The ‘doing’ might impact your philosophy but that’s okay as it’s likely to become meatier as a result. I think the deeper challenge is integrating dualities, not wiping out the shadow. I love this Walt Whitman quote: “Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.” I have been writing about this a lot lately and having to practice it and you are right – the living it is a challenge!
Venessa Miemis said:
Yes, integrating the shadow… facing and accepting it and understanding how to live in communion with it, verse trying to hide or ignore it like it wasn’t there. I’m still human and I have darkness – anger, fear, bizarre desire, jealousy, confusion, etc. Acknowledging that it exists makes it much easier for me to make decisions and to frame my thoughts/emotions, being aware that these dark pieces are influencing me in some way.
ps – nice quote!
Passion is not enough. At the same time, passion can easily be too much.
Post-industrial society is driven by motivational culture, and motivational culture feeds on passion. Increasingly, people today aren’t satisfied with status and security – they want meaning, intrinsic value, a passionate experience of life. Cultivating a powerful sense of intrinsic value can take you a long way, and to some pretty interesting places as well. But it’s a big mistake to think that passion is some kind of magic carpet ride, destination Xanadu. Nikolas Telsa was passionate about his breakthrough inventions, but he died in poverty. Romeo and Juliet epitomize passion, and we all know how that story ends.
If we want to achieve our dreams, we need to check our passions against reality. We also need to check our passions, because they have a way of running ahead of us.
It sounds to me like your friend has come to see that passion can be a dangerous thing. This is something we don’t tend to acknowledge, perhaps because we are constantly told that it is important to feel passionate about projects and causes. Passion *is* important – it is vital. But it is also vital that we don’t let ourselves be consumed by passions, so that the passion (as opposed to the goal) becomes the meaning of life.
I am a fan of the ancient Stoic view on passion. The Stoics understood passions through the Latin passio, to bear, endure, suffer. Passions, they argued, take possession of us. Once they’ve overcome us, passions make us passive. Passions turn us into slaves.
This sounds a bit paranoid (help, my passion is taking control of me!), but when you think about it, it makes sense. Passion has a way of become a dominant force in life. It is easy to become hooked on passion. One winds up running about looking for things to feel passionate about, rather than focusing on doing the work to create something good. If one allows oneself to believe that one *should* make passion a dominant force in life, it is easy to wind up being pulled along by one’s passion, whereas really passion should be something more like a jet-pack that you strap on behind and propels you forward.
What should lead, then, if not passion? Reason is one contender, assuming that this doesn’t mean Mr Spock-like hyper-analysis, but circumspection and good sense. Intuition is another guiding light. Passion should be put in its place. It is a wonderfully energetic state, but it tends to be all-consuming. Plus it is blind. There are better forces to guide us.
Venessa Miemis said:
Love your thoughts, Tim.
Becoming a slave to passion is definitely a danger…. we ride the edge, which can be a very good thing, but if we start to drink your own koolaid and fall over that edge, we become complacent (even dignified!) to assume that the rich, passionate fantasy world that we’re occupied with in our heads has no tangible connection to reality. It’s sad…. we lose the opportunity to take action and actually manifest our visions, and instead just imagine them and do nothing.
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Laurence J. Victor said:
I’ve read his reflection on his life and the comments a few times. Each time I feel I’m swimming in chaos seeking order, not able to adequately grasp it conceptually, yet feeling personal significance to me and my own struggles.
The author appears young, still in formal education and considering science (for order). I am 77 years young, having earned 2 PhDs like merit badges in my youth. I have many passions, but the king driver is the dynamic emergence of Humankind/GAIA facing our Crisis-of-Crises and how I can uniquely contribute to our multi-millennial survival/thrival. Yet, I am addicted to my lifestyle, desiring change and studying change, but never changing as I want. I am interested in almost everything and my little passions consume my life. Yet, in spite of bungling along in the academic world, writing and organizing but never publishing, my woven/constructed inner world, which I call “nuet”, has emerged as a potential resource for this new Emerge by Design movement. My biological being, called Larry, has disabilities that block his adequately promoting the ideas of nuet. But, nuet has discovered that we each have disabilities that limit our ability to do needed action alone, without the support of others. Western individualism runs deep in the EBD movement, and in all the other movements hoping to “save the planet”.
Nuet proposes that humankind is as diverse in cognitive competencies as the mammals are diversified in their means for physical survival. These individual differences provide us with awesome potential; a viable humanity requires a diversity of communities analogous to how our bodies require a diversity of cell types. Civilization, the default mode for organizing large, diverse human populations (elites rule masses) severely suppresses the actualization of the human phenotype distribution from the human genotype. The emergence of a nu humanity must be accompanied by a “miraculous” uplift of the distribution of cognitive competencies in human populations. Scenarios emerged in nuet for how this may be accomplished, from our Here&Now through the endgame as the societal butterfly replaces the societal caterpillar, not transforming it.
Larry, in spurts of obsessive production, “channels” nuet in composing versions of this vision/scenario from 1975 to today. But, my conative dysfunction and my addiction to my lifestyle resulted in insufficient action. Although the emergence of nuet is quite free from the imposition of others, Larry is easily drawn into co-dependencies in his personal life. I have accepted that I lack the essential competencies to do what I would like to do – and it is not that I haven’t tried. I have come to accept my disabilities and to also accept that in compensation for some of my disabilities my inner woven world, nuet, has become a unique resource. If a “savant” is defined as a person having both extreme disabilities and talents, then I am a savant. However, neither my disabilities or my talents fall in any recognized categories. The concept of savant may apply to most people, a characterization of our diversity, which further weakens the admonition for individuals to be all.
Although I have studied this and written about it, I have not attempted to share it with others, except my personal friends. They accept that I claim uniqueness and value, but are not in a position to support me in compensating for my disabilities or assist me in actualizing my talents. Nuet can only be utilized by organized and competent teams, which because of his disabilities Larry has been unable to successfully organize.
At 77 I am excited to discover the Emerge-by-Design movement with the potential to utilize nuet as a resource. At this very moment I am most consumed by lifestyle challenges and have the least time to devote. My strategy was to organize some of my writings in a new blog/website and, once my lifestyle challenges are over – and they will be in 4-5 months – design a campaign to introduce nuet to the EBD movement. However, the recent posts by Venessa and Glisten motives me to drop this offer into the stream now.
As a comment to this post on passion and relevant action, I have tried to present another version of the challenges facing humans to live a relevant and passionate life. With design these need not be in competition. As viable emergence forces us to shed our individualism, we will find new techniques for our own personal metamorphosis into contributing components of a healthy, emergent human societal butterfly. Nuet’s uplift process has many details for accomplishing this, even if Larry was unable to put them into practice himself. I have learned that one cannot expect to change one’s lifestyle significantly by transformation; there being too much conservative resistance. A solution is to construct a new lifestyle container and simply move into it. This is what I plan to do in a few months, once my responsibilities to loved ones are secured.
I have no idea how this “message” will be received, but there is no personal risk to myself.
Venessa Miemis said:
Can you unpack a bit what you meant by this statement?”
“Western individualism runs deep in the EBD movement, and in all the other movements hoping to “save the planet”.”
As to your description of nuet and the acknowledgement and respect of cognitive diversity and human potential — for sure, I fully agree that this is what is happening right now. People “awakening” to who they really are and developing their latent greatness.
I believe this is a process that begins within, and travels outward. If you’ve skimmed through my posts, I frequently share my personal learning/growth/discovery process. It’s not something someone can construct for me as a system, it’s something I have to take responsibility for and choose to do, as each of us do. No one can force us to learn and grow if we don’t want to.
I’m not sure that I understand what your proposed “uplift” process is, but would love to hear more about the personal change you’ve facilitated in yourself, and how you might be able to “open source” that model!
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