The Ecstasy of Passionate Work
Have you ever been intrigued or bemused by someone having the thrill of a lifetime when experiencing something that to you seemed like nothing special? If so and you can recall the situation you will likely recognize that what seemed ordinary to you was an event that might have stayed with them for the rest of their lives. This is what happens when personal passion meets a lived-for moment.
I saw this with my friend and award-winning adventurer/filmmaker Hardy Jones when he watched a dolphin emulate his actions on the sandy bottom of the Caribbean while filming “Four Years With the Dolphins” in 1982. He was ecstatic because he could fully appreciate what we lay people could not. His passion for filming dolphins in the wild gave him a unique appreciation of their behavioral nuances, what was normal and what was exceptional. He knew he was witnessing something he had never seen before. For the rest of us it was simply a dolphin hovering tail down on the sand.
I have also observed this when committed teachers light up on seeing a student finally comprehend a concept they had previously been struggling with. It happens when a person who is completely dedicated to something, and possesses deep knowledge of the subtleties of their passion, observes what seems magical to them – a writer who finds just the right word, a music composer who finds the perfect note combination, the birdwatcher who notices a rare species for the first time.
This thrill, this ecstatic feeling, is the payoff for being passionately engaged with one’s work. Frequently I hear people refer to this passionate engagement as their “calling.”
Some people are fortunate enough to find their calling, their unique contribution to the world, and commit to it. Others, like myself, think of it more as “my calling found me.”
Sadly, some people never have this experience because they have not responded to their calling or found anything that they are willing to engage with their whole selves – their bodies, hearts, minds and souls.
I’m reminded of a saying I first heard during the peak of the human potential movement in the 1970s: “We either have what we want or the reasons why we don’t.” These reasons will likely not be accurate for we’d have to admit we were afraid of change, commitment or wholehearted engagement. They more likely will be consolations – stories we have told ourselves to deflect any responsibility on our part such as “I had family responsibilities” or “I didn’t have the connections” or “I couldn’t afford to do it.”
When people are lacking something to be passionate about in their lives it usually means they have avoided or resisted it for some reason. The usual factors include inconvenience, risk aversion, or fear of the unknown. However, the opportunities foregone are an expensive price to pay for remaining comfortable. They give up lives of passionate engagement accompanied by countless opportunities for thrill, awe and ecstatic experience.