Finding Your Passion

To go fishing for your passion
you have to troll with your heart.


“The time that we have for our use every day is elastic; the passions that we feel expand it, the passions we inspire contract it, and habit fills up what remains.”
—Marcel Proust

I have a friend who by the time he was 15 knew he wanted to be a writer. And though he dated many different girls through high school and college, he only had one passion. Writing. He later met a wonderful woman, married and has a beautiful family. Through it all, however, he has maintained this long-term “affair” with writing. His wife laughs that they have an “open marriage.” He meets his passion late at night, over coffee in the mornings, and talks about “her,” constantly. He does not ignore this lover for fear “she” will ignore him. His wife certainly doesn’t want him to ignore “her.” “She” nurtures him and feeds his family. “She” has introduced them to movie stars and last year paid for a new roof. “I’m not a religious man,” he now says at middle-age, “but I thank God for this passion in life.” Finding our passion is a religious experience. A life absent of passion is a vacuum that sucks the life from us.

Most of us understand passion less as something we posses than something we are looking for. Most of us know it by its absence. We talk about passion as if it were a hat or a pair of sunglasses we left on a counter when we walked from a room. For many of us passion is the hole in our lives. Missing passion is a modern malaise. It is an endemic scar on our shared heart.

People in long-term relationships often feel that the passion has fled. But that is usually because we expect, unfairly, others to be the source of our passion. Others, however, are not hiding the passion we’re seeking. It’s usually us who have lost what we’re trying to find in others.

Knowing something is missing is the first step toward finding it. That passion is missing in our lives doesn’t mean passion is absent. Searching for passion is sacred work. And as in so many other areas in life, the search as much as the solution transforms us.

People with passion, saints and sinners, tend to magnetize the rest of us. We are drawn to passion. Even if it is not ours. We like to be in the proximity of passion. We want to warm our hearts from its glow.

To find our passion doesn’t mean we have to start a fire. We only have to find our fire. To find our fire begins by leaning toward what warms us. Inside each of us is the kindling to stoke our own fire.

All fires must be tended and fires of the heart are no different. Unattended fires start forest fires. Passions can set us ablaze. Passion has built cathedrals, and passions unattended have burnt down worlds.

Passions of the heart burn the hottest. “Hell hath no fury like a woman spurned.” Crimes of passion dominate murder statistics, but passion is never a cold statistic. Ask anyone who is one.

Children can have passions just as parents can lose them. It’s never too early to be in pursuit of one’s passions and never too late to guard them. Passions are pursuing us as often as we are chasing them. Sometime the best way to catch a passion is to slow down and let it catch you. We should nurture our children’s passion. Teach them to tend their inner-fire. Fan the flames of their interest and curiosity.

People without passion sometimes resent those who have found theirs. People who appear to have found their way leave others of us feeling lost. Feeling lost, we often turn our absent passion for something into a passion against something. When we don’t know what we love, we too often know what we hate.

Hate is a passion. A passion that sets our own house on fire. More than we hate evil let us love good.

To go fishing for your passion you have to troll with your heart. We can find reasons to be passionate but reason is not passion’s bait. Be passionate about fishing and let others worry about what you catch. Passion is its own success. Even failing can be successful if the effort has been passionate.

We can’t always be passionate about our work. And sometimes we have to work at our passions. Passion is the stuff of both pain and pleasure. Often it is both.

Passions are all quicksilver and shadows. Unlike Peter Pan, we cannot sew our passions to us. Passions are not stitched to our schemes but our visions. Passions come and go when they like. Passions do not like curfews. Passion requires special handling and are passionate about how they are handled. Strangely, passions are sensitive but not fragile. Passions are vulnerable and invincible. Passions wound easily and die hard.

We like to talk about our passions. When I hear myself going poetic on passions, I can almost bet my interior voice will soon mock me, saying, “But this is not what passion means at all.”

Though words can inspire us to passion, passion defies languages. The word “love” is a thin dime of sentiment against the Fort Knox of falling in love. Growing up, whispering the “L” word to a girl was something that was done with caution. Not because of what you said but what she heard. Passions also hear what is not said. Being “chatty” about passion always reminds me of T. S. Eliot’s line: “The women come and go and speak of Michelangelo.” Language will not take us to the promised land of passion though it allows us to send home letters describing what we found.

Dr. Paul Erdos was one of the most noted mathematicians of any age. He recently passed away in Warsaw. He was stooped and slight and considered “property a nuisance.” Math was his passion. His mind’s love. His heart’s affair. The New York Times wrote in his obituary: “He spoke of a Great Book in the sky, maintained by God, that contained the most elegant proofs of every mathematical problem. He used to joke about what he might find if he could just have a glimpse of that book.”

Passion is the driving force that has every prince wanting a glimpse of the princess in the tower. Whatever problem we have locked in ourselves, whatever beauty we have hidden in ourselves, finding our passion is the first step to scaling the tower.

I have found my passion. And lost it. I have found it again. And lost it once again. Welcome to the planet Earth. We walk on a little blue ball spinning in space. Losing our balance is part of the journey. I have found myself being passionate about things that don’t matter. And guilty of assuming that now absent, ignored passions would always grace my company.

Passions are more than momentary lust. Lust is luscious but we seldom want more lust than a belly-full. Passions are more than something you want, or must have. It is something that has you. Ask your passion for a date. It may turn into the affair of a lifetime. It’s not now or never but now is never again.

Noah benShea Copyright 2009All Rights Reserved