The other day I read a blog posting from an old friend of mine. We were "co-stars" in Tom Sawyer back in the day when Farrah Fawcett locks were en vogue. Apparently, patterned turtle necks under 3/4 sleeve t-shirts were also quite the fashion statement!
Steve wrote about how he admired those who had "nerdy" obsessions or passions. He indicated that he was more of a Renaissance man with a wide scope of interests rather than a man with a passion about any one thing. As a result, he wondered whether or not this lack of a passion was healthy. This got me thinking.
Lately, my kids have hooked into a T.V. show that is filled with passion and obsession. Thanks (or not) to my dear sister Sue and her daughter, Jessica, my kids love to watch the show Whale Wars. I admit it, I too have found myself sucked in from time to time as we watch the Sea Shepherds try anything they can think of to rid the seas of the evils of whaling in protected waters. If you haven't seen the show, it is worth a gander if you want to see people driven to extremes for something they believe in. I admire their passion. I dig their gumption.
The "funny" thing about this show, however, is the number of times that passion and zeal turn into costly mistakes. Granted, the show would not be what it is without torn up inflatables, broken props, leaks in fresh water tanks, failing helicopter rotors, stranded team members, and so on. But it leaves me to wonder whether their passionate obsession is at times blind to reasonable forethought, planning, preparation, and carry through. Is the impulse to live out their passion in the moment of "engagement" with the whaling vessels short circuiting their common sense? As a viewer I hear myself shouting, "let go of the rope - you're gonna get hurt!" and wondering why in the attempt to "prop fowl" there isn't a smidge more mother wit amongst the Shepherds. And, isn't it true that we have all heard of people so passionately obsessed with something that they are so to the detriment of their relationships, their livelihoods, and to their own well beings?
Passion is absolutely necessary to get the hard work of the world done. I think most of the advancements of man - whether technological, scientific, human rights related, medical, spiritual, whatever - would not have occurred without a good dose of passionate obsession. Yet the passion, I believe, in order to be most effective must be tempered, to some degree, with practical perspective and sound problem solving. Reckless abandon can become quite wreck-full without some solid forethought and planning. An amazing spark of an idea ignited by passion can burn out quickly if there is not willful determination for patience, perseverance, and, perhaps, even long term "suffering". While I do believe that a person with fiery passion can also possess gifts and talents required for the long haul and perspective keeping, I also believe that some of the Renaissance men and women of the world (along with those even-keeled- but-really-good-at-what-they-do people) are necessary to keep a balance along the way - within a particular cause or generally within the world. A world full of passionately obsessive people lacking some Renaissance-like skills would surely cause some sort of chaos.
That being said, I believe that most people, somewhere within them, have a degree of passion for something; perhaps not a passionate obsession - which in itself may not be healthy - but some underlying sense of urgency or spark toward an idea, activity, person, or event. Maybe it is the area in which ones buttons are most easily pushed; the thing that you are most easily ruffled over. Maybe it's the thing you can't seem to shake from the back of your mind. Perhaps your passions are seasonal, changing over time or redefined based on experience or availability related to that passion. If circumstances were different, just maybe the ember of passion resting among the ashes could be fanned into a full on fire producing flame. Sometimes, we don't always know how to shape our passions into practical endeavors, however, which may make us doubt that there is any zeal or zest to begin with. I imagine if I sat down with Steve and chatted with him for a while I would find that he has passion hidden under practicality or circumstance. One guess, for example, is that his interest in many things is sparked by a passion (subdued perhaps) for an expanse of knowledge. No one said a Renaissance man has to imply a lack of eager dedication or drive toward something.
The bottom line, in my mind, is that we were all created uniquely with purpose and value. We all have our own gifts, talents, and interests. It would be horribly boring and thoroughly ineffective if we were all created the same way. Finding that thing or those things which make our hearts beat a little faster or our minds race a little longer is part of discovering how we were created and for what purpose. Neither the obsessively passionate nor the 'jack of all trades' is unhealthy when working in step with divine plan for which one was created. Either one can be a world changer...a mover and a shaker. What is that spark within you? Wherein does your passion lie? Or, if you are more of a well rounded life liver, what drives those things that give you your "roundness"? Whatever it is, it is not by chance, but by the thoughtful design of the One who made you.