Someone asked me tonight what my passion was.
I had to think what my answer would be.
And then I had to think about the question itself.
When I think about how many years I let slip by, just coasting and getting along with folk in this western world of almost unlimited freedom, I’m a little ashamed. We can do what we want, within the means given to us (and let’s face it – we have a lot going for us, no matter how poor we may be), and yet we squander it away. *I* squander it away – watching TV and relaxing at the end of the day.
(Protests that there’s nothing wrong with relaxing after a busy day are going to be ignored. We all know that’s true but it’s beside the point. You know what I mean.)
Day after day, TV program after TV program can slowly swallow your days. You can be the frog in the cold water, just sitting there – *relaxing* – while The Man turns up the burner on the stove.
I tried to remember what it was that made my blood boil; what it was that got my wandering attention; what…thing….hammered a nail in my hand.
“Life. I’m passionate about living.”
“Total cop-out. Everyone can say that. What gets you passionate?”
Even though what I just said was true, I thought some more.
“Not specific enough. Try again.”
It’s true, as far as it goes. When I left the assembly line to the computer keyboard, I was amazed at technology and what it could do. Still am. It excites me, gets my ADD thoughts twirling around in colliding bits of wonder.
Eventually though the coloured lights diminish, like mental snow globe flakes settling to the bottom. Sooner or later you come to the limits of what’s possible and available now in technology and boredom pokes its head in the door, sniffing at your discontent. The distracted prey might not be aware when it makes its way fully in, depositing a big steaming pile of anguished disgruntlement. One remedy for boredom: TV. Books. Those have always worked for me.
Abe (see blogroll – Word of Abe) painted a picture of one of his motorcycle trips, and a moment that put everything in crystal clarity for him. I’ve had moments like those. They’re usually so rare and they go by so fast that it’s hard to hang on to them.
I remembered attending an Anglican cathedral night gathering, with the glow of warm lights only appearing at the altar end of the massive pillared place. The outer edges and walls were lost in darkness. The uniquely beautiful and decidedly untraditional music notes produced by a variety of wind, brass and electrical instruments, combined with harmonious voices wafted throughout that place, curling around pillars and up into the darkness of the invisible stone ceiling, making the heart swell with joy. You couldn’t escape it. I didn’t recognize any of the music or knew the words, but I remember just standing there, bathing in it, hoping it would never end. None of the songs ever ended abruptly. The instruments would cease, and the voices would slowly collapse into a fading harmonious hum.
In school, I joined the band and played various percussive instruments: drums, timpani, bells and the xylophone. Collectively our band never achieved the same joy of that Anglican church gathering, but – we created our own joy, just different. Not every song was dynamic, and some were downright hideous really. Occasionally our band leader would pick a song and I knew – just *knew* – it was right. It would make the heart thump hard, and you could almost visibly see a change in the musicians as we did our level best to perfect the song.
The piano lessons I had taken since I was small kid had culminated in the achievement of the passing of the Grade Nine Royal Conservatory exam. I was proud but it didn’t move me that much. I figured piano wasn’t my deal. I stopped playing, I thought, for good.
Until I took it up again when I played at the front of our church with an absolutely awesome and gifted guitarist. His exhibited an intent and energy to move out of the shallow waters and into the deep dark waters of creativity. This drove me until I finally found a pure joy in a creativity of my own. We sparked off of each other, there at the front of that little church. There were other singers there and a drummer as well but on so many Sundays it was him and me, going off into riffs of music that were never in the original scores of the music we played. John created some of his own songs, and we worked them out with abandon and delight. We would extend a three-minute song into fifteen minutes, just improvising and playing back and forth. First, he would take the lead and I would provide a backdrop of musical harmonious noise; then, he would drop back and provide rhythm while I walked up and down those keys, trying different things and riffing as if no one else was in the room.
I remember smiling. I remember looking at the congregation and seeing them with their eyes closed.
There’s a scene in a movie called Rock Star, where Mark Wahlberg (who plays the rock star “Izzy”) is standing next to Jennifer Aniston with a group of people, and he throws his head back and bursts out in the raunchiest of singing notes. I remember sitting in the theater and feeling shivers go up and down my spine in focused empathy.
I revised my answer: “Music”
“Listening or playing?”
I considered the question. Then, “both”.
“There you go.”
I really want to play again. I don’t have a piano.
That can and will be remedied.
The seduction of the couch continues to beckon me, as it does so many other people. The impulse to relax and do nothing, except complain on occasion, needs to be fought with rushing blood, from the depth of bone.
I have fallen into the trap of minute concerns, the constant frustration of attempting to sweep up inconsequential marbles: what will I do on Friday night, time to pay some bills, get my dry cleaning, should I hire a housekeeper, hope there’s time to read the newspaper before heading to work, will I gain weight if I put some cheese on my salad.
The noise of minutiae drowns out the howling wolf who just needs to *run*.
I wonder: if we’re not pursuing passion, are we just putting in time?
What passion have you let slide?