Monthly Archives: June 2011

Comfortable Passions

Apathetic cross

can you imagine?

So apparently the Beatles, before they had their successful break in music, performed an estimated 1200 live shows. Most bands don’t hit that number during their whole career. This is a staggering figure to me.

As I was riding home, well, I make that sound like it’s been an individual event, a one time revelation that knocked me off my bike and made me see the light. It’s not like that at all, more of a temporally dispersed cognitive realisation, or revelation. I know that what I am going to type will have some saying “yah, we know, duh” but it is still true, and I don’t know how many people actually really get it. So, here goes.

I have heard many times, from many friends how they have a specific passion and desire for some thing. One friend was passionate about music, playing his guitar for a worship band. The idea being that he really felt called to do this if not full time, then at least as a permanent ministry. I have another friend who expresses a passion for the underprivileged, believing her meaning or reason for existing might be to help out in this area. The list is pretty much endless, essentially everyone you know has a professed passion, even if it’s been, by their own admission, ridiculously neglected. However, here’s the thing, this passion is not quite so important as TV. Or computer games, or whatever, pick your entertainment/time sink poison.

I make it sound like I am the guru of not being more involved in time sink frippery, and that I have a secret or special knowledge of how to become a better person in 14 easy steps or your money back. This is not the case at all. The reality is, I have very often waxed lyrical about what I wish to do, where my true passions lie, what I believe my “calling” to be and where my heart is without there being a shred of evidence to support this claim at all.

If you wish with all your heart to be a pilot or a musician and these things don’t manifest in your life in one way or another, you might not have much of a handle on what really moves you as you think you do. Perhaps it is just that we romanticise an idea, and then fancy that image we have created… perhaps we get too easily caught up in the ideas of the truly passionate. When a friend of mine who is passionate about flying, gets to talk about flying I begin to be quite stirred by it too. When I see a skeletal wreck on television, with a distended stomach and haunted eyes, I begin to imagine that I really care for his or her plight resolving to live in a way that I might help those people on a long term basis, and in the meantime, send money. But once that immediate stimulus is gone, nothing happens. There is absolutely zero momentum to continue on a path to fulfil that imagined passion.

No one can claim that the Beatles weren’t passionate about something or other, be it fame, music or money  perhaps a combination of all of those, or none of them. The focus of their passion is largely irrelevant to this post, the fact is that there is evidence of a great passion and desire for something.

With all of this said, if I were an alien anthropologist I might come to the conclusion that the majority of the population in the western world were passionate about, and made it their life’s goal to do the following things. Work at, and complain about, a job that brought absolutely no fulfilment to their lives, while lamenting the loss of opportunity to do something that mattered to them. Usually this is combined with a plethora of reasons why it is not their fault for not achieving their stated goals, and usually they are not lying, although closer inspection might lead to the conclusion that the underlying reason is apathy. I would also conclude that the same group  of people were passionate about fiction and entertainment. Mindless escapism with a growing focus on what we call “reality” television, which ironically shows individuals chasing a passion. Perhaps even sacrificing greatly to achieve that goal. The amount of time that goes into entertainment would leave me with no other conclusions to draw. That can be the only possibility. Surely, if you are passionate about the poor, that would take up the majority of your time? What about music, if that is your passion, then that should be where you spend the majority of your time, even if you are stuck in a job that just pays the bills.

2 people claim the following 2 things respectively:

  • I am passionate about music, I believe it is my calling
  • I am passionate about the internet, and developing it further any way I can

One person spends a ridiculous amount of time in front of his computer, grinding out line after line of code. The other spends a ridiculous amount of time in front of his television, watching whatever is on. Not too difficult to identify which passion is real and which is imagined.

I watched a video on TED that had been put by someone I “faceknow” on his facewall. It was a video clip about apathy and how the speaker disagreed with the idea that humans were basically apathetic. I guess the premise is that humans don’t follow the Newtonian ‘object at rest or motion remain in that state unless acted upon by an outside force’. The idea that he disagrees with is that humans return to a state of apathy unless being acted upon by a force. So the video clip went on to show that people would get involved in their local councils or whatever, if they were given enough incentive. If it is too hard to get information about involvement, that kills the incentive and people don’t get involved. So, it’s not the populations fault, it’s really the councils or whatever organisations fault for not making involvement easy. I had a “but wait” moment. But wait, isn’t that kind of the definition of apathy? We couldn’t be bothered to do anything, because it’s just too much effort. The people who are passionate, and NOT apathetic, about it would persist, despite the effort involved.

I suppose the kernel thought that started this all off is something that is repeated on Sundays in song and statement all over the world, almost the Christian mission statement “We love you above all else Lord”. Which might indicate a passion for God, and yet the billions of man hours that go into personal, selfish entertainment might speak of apathy rather than passion. To clarify, the entertainment thing isn’t the bad part, the focus on it above all else is.

The conclusion to this ridiculously fragmented post is, loosely, this;

The activities of your free time define what is really, actually, most important to you. If you speak of something, and there is no activity in that general direction at all, then what conclusion could possibly be drawn?

p.s. I started this post on Jan 24 2011. passionate!

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