And the point is to live everything.
Live the questions now.
Perhaps then, someday far in the future,
you will gradually,
without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.*
(Rainer Maria Rilke)
So what don’t we have enough of? It’s not stuff! Short answer: Mattering. Making a difference. Doing something important.**
There’s a lot of talk about whether we ought to pursue our passions and dreams. A lot of it is polarised. Hugh Macleod helpfully distils the issue down:
‘the thing you don’t want to do is work at a job that you hate and not prosper in the process. That is purgatory’.^
He’s right. It has to be the worst of all scenarios. Play this out against what Johan Huizinga extracts from his studying of ancient agonistic play. By the time I read the following words about an earlier age, he’s already pointed out that play preceded civilisation, not only being a part of human life but also that of other species:
‘Our point of departure must be the conception of an almost childlike play-sense expressing itself in various form, some serious, some playful, but all rooted in ritual and productive of culture by allowing the innate human need of rhythm, harmony, change alternation, contrast and climax, etc., to unfold in all richness.’^^
There’re some important words here for our understanding of work and passion, sharpening the focus on whether there is playfulness in what we do. Playfulness seen in the forms and iterations of rhythm, harmony, change alternation, contrast and climax. There are more words to add to these. Huizinga continues to describe this earlier time:
‘Coupled with this play-sense is a spirit that strives for honour, dignity, superiority and beauty. Magic and mystery, heroic longings, the foreshadowing of music, sculpture and logic all seek form and expression in noble play. A later generation will call the age that knew such aspirations “heroic.”‘**
Playfulness is how we become more human, if such means we’re exploring honour, dignity, superiority (mastery),beauty, magic, mystery and heroic longings.
Macleod suggests we’re not searching for more stuff but more mattering. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi would probably include success as simply being more stuff:
‘Don’t aim at success – the more you aim at it and make it your target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue … as the intended side effect of one’s personal dedication to a course greater than oneself.’*^
If you’ve ever seen the Peanuts cartoon in which Charlie Brown paints targets around the arrows he’s already fired into the fence – so he hits the bulls-eye every time – then maybe you’re thinking Charlie didn’t have it all wrong.
What matters to you more than anything else? What are your questions? What have you been up to all these years and maybe not noticed everything it comprises?
The inductive life wins over the deductive. What’s important to you is likely to be already inside you, a story wanting to get out. Perhaps passion is just the name we give to this when it breaks out.
It’s hard, though.
Humans have returned to explore this in one way or other throughout the millennia – I’ve not blogged about it once or twice but for more than five years with over 1,800 articles. It takes time and effort – forget anything that promises easy steps:
‘The best moments usually occur when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile. Optimal experience is thus something that we make happen.’*^
Don’t give up on passion. Grab your biggest questions and go with them.
(*Rainer Maria Rilke, quoted in the Northumbria Community‘s Morning Prayer.)
(**From gapingvoid’s blog: Our infinite need to be meaningful.)
(^From gapingvoid’s blog: For the love of work.)
(^^From Johan Huizinga’s Homo Ludens.)
(*^From Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s Flow.)