I occasionally get asked how I found my passions and to be honest I haven’t had a good answer for them. It’s often described as finding your passion. As if something just wanders into your life and BANG a passion is born. Yet it isn’t like that. It’s the complete opposite, but until now I hadn’t realized why the cliché of finding your passion sounded so wrong. What happened a while ago was that I started caring again. After having everything dulled for so long I couldn’t afford to have my emotions turned down anymore. So I turned them back up.
I think passion starts the other way around, instead of looking for something that will make you care you do the opposite, you take note of the all the things that make you feel. You start to notice all the little things in the world around you and whether they make you feel happy, sad, annoyed or angry. You start to care about these emotions and you start to see the things that interest you more because there are more emotions attached to them. Then you stumble on something that opens up a whole new internal world and whoa, it changes who you are. Yet you didn’t find it, it was always there, you just weren’t open to the experience before.
For those who know about gifted, kids or adults, there is a term they use to describe their traits called overexcitabilities. I don’t want to go into them in depth but think of them like an average person’s traits on performance enhancing drugs. One of them is emotional overexcitability which is one of the ones I have. Think of it as the polar opposite of being a sociopath, I feel everything in the world around way to hard, so much so that most of the time I can’t feel myself. It’s one of the reasons I turned my feelings down when I was young. Now they are back to normal (for me) I am trying to work out how to manage it. I keep vacillating between ice cold and molten mess, but I can’t seem to find the middle ground between the two. Sadly society readily accepts and cherishes ice cold and laughs, ridicules and ostracizes molten messes. Society may say they want sensitive men but rarely do they accept them.
It starts in school, perhaps even earlier, and it doesn’t ever really stop. We enter that age where emotions have to be controlled and managed, failing to do so results in trouble with our parents, teachers or peers. Control and management is an admirable goal but we don’t teach it as something to direct, shape and explore, we teach control as the ability to stop listening and acting on emotions. Angry outbursts have to be curtailed, boys especially must not cry, caring is seen as a weakness and non-conformity to the social norms is strictly policed. It continues into adulthood as well. You can’t rock the boat too much at work, cold logical decisions are generally rewarded, those who show ice cold control and disregard for the feelings of others are often rewarded with promotions and those passionate few who are left often find themselves wondering why the hell they don’t fit in.
Passion can’t fit in; passion is not about ignoring, burying, hiding or denying our feelings. That won’t work with passion. Passion is immersing yourself so deep in your feelings it blinds you to the world around. Yet we don’t teach children how to harness their feelings. We don’t teach them how to direct it, how to focus a single feeling like a laser beam ready to craft the world anew. We don’t teach kids how to gather every different feeling together to re-arrange them on a canvas. Because teaching kids this means teaching them non-conformity.
It’s the kid who wants to know how the world works, always asking why. It’s the kid who sits quietly drawing portraits at lunch, absorbed in colors and form. It’s the kid who swims for three hours before school even starts, feeling every stroke. It’s the kid who endlessly practices on his guitar, hunting for the sounds that pull emotions forth. It’s the kid who wants to crusade for a cause because they can’t stand moral injustice. These kids are weird, strange and they don’t belong. They aren’t interested in all the cool things, things like the latest fashions, iPhones, celebrities, movies, sports teams and all the things that those that fit in are interested in. These kids are by nature non-conformists, they care so much about one or two particular things they just can’t see the world of the ordinary. They are lost to something they don’t always know how to describe
And so we kill them. We call them the nerds, the geeks, the jocks, the greenies or simply the wannabe’s. Those passionate kids, some of them want to fit in too. Yet to do so they have to turn down the volume on how much they care about their passion. They underplay it, hide how much they enjoy doing the things they care about, it’s just a hobby. Except inside to them it is everything. Some of those kids, kids with back bones of pure titanium, they become the Steve Jobs, the Picassos, the Phelps, the Madonnas or the Gandhis. But most end up being not quite as passionate as they once were. Passionate people also care about the people around them, they want to fit in, and they want to be understood. Yet faced with a choice of passion against conformity little by little they snip off parts of their passion until one day that kid with a passion is dead and in his place is a kid with a interest.
So I guess I want to know why, why do we hate non-conformity so much that we want to kill off the passionate people. The passionate people are the people who built society as we know it. They literally started revolutions for the society we live in today. They write the music we listen to and they play the sports we watch. They design the iPhones we use and they put us in space. They even compete in the Olympics we are watching right now. Why do we want to kill these people off? Is it something biological in us, do we only feel comforted when those around us are the same as us? Is it simply because we don’t like change, because passionate people have a way of changing the world around them? In a world gone mad for group think how do we encourage those who can’t see the box? How do we make them feel accepted for caring so much about one or two specific things?
Photo: Getty Images
*A minstrel was a medieval European bard who performed songs whose lyrics told stories of distant places or of existing or imaginary historical events. Although minstrels created their own tales, often they would memorize and embellish the works of others. The Modern Minstrel observes the world around him and shares it with us as lyrical story. This series was inspired by Luke Davis, whose eye for story and ear for lyrical prose are featured here.
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