A close friend, who is a therapist, says every person needs at least five passions in order to feel truly alive. This is something I’d agree with, but I hadn’t really contemplated why.
For the past few years of teaching, I’ve given the same assignment on the first day of class: Bertrand Russell’s “Three Passions” essay. Students are then asked to write about the three things they are most passionate about.
In preparation for my classes, I thought a lot about my zealousness and about what function this zeal serves.
In addition to what my friend says – that we need to feel ardor to feel alive – I thought about how our passions shape who we are.
We can use this information in seeking out potential partners as well. For instance, a person who is obsessed with sci-fi/fantasy role playing games has a very specific pastime. This interest tells us so much more about the person. The same goes for a person who is zealous about extreme sports; we can quickly understand her temperament and personality. An important thing to consider when seeking out a mate is just how compatible your interests are with another’s.
I also thought about how our passions ultimately attract us to others. Rather than using our interests as a marketing tool, however, we should think of our passions as ways to attract those with similar interests. Although opposites do attract, it is often the case that we click with those whose interests are similar to our own.
Moreover, our passions let others know that while we’d love to be partnered and fully share a life, we could still maintain some level of autonomy. As a trusted friend often says, “Nothing is more appealing than a woman who does her thang.”
My friend feels that the younger one is, the more interests should be evident. She thinks people under 30 should have at least 20 passions. Given my age, I’ve chosen the top 10 things I’m most zealous about.
1. Love. This seems like an obvious thing, but it speaks to so many areas of life. First and foremost is love for God and the Holy Trinity, followed by all the angels and saints. It is through this divine love that I seek to learn all I can about loving others: family, friends, students, and even my enemies. I often think about what my mother taught me: that all love leads to The Cross.
2. Teaching. I consider it a form of social work. I have only ever worked with public school educated inner – city populations, and this is completely by choice. I am passionate about empowering my students through knowledge. I always tell them: “Control your own language and you control your whole life.” I hope to teach them not just how to read and write on the college level, but how to think critically and clearly.
3. Visual art. I have had a lifelong love affair with visual art. I am lucky enough to live in a city that has a vibrant art community; galleries and museums abound. I try to go to exhibitions weekly. I love that art teaches me how to see.
4. Music. I fell in love with music at a young age. I remember buying my first record with my own money when I was 6. I am certain I would not be the person I am today if I hadn’t heard the music I heard growing up. Music is air to me.
5. Dance. When I was 5, I took my first dance class and never stopped, but in 1997 I found the dance form I would come to call my own. Dancing completes me as a person. When I dance I feel like the person God intended me to be: poised, graceful, measured. I sculpt the space around me; I become art.
6. Writing. I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was 9. Whatever dance can’t say for me, I can put into words and say through my freelance writing. I write fiction, poetry, satire and creative non-fiction. Writing for this blog has inspired me and I am eternally grateful to CatholicMatch for allowing me to write for them.
7. Literature. I love reading the works of other writers. Reading allows me into different worlds. It gives my imagination permission to roam free. Reading makes me see other points of view. It forces me to develop myself. I am grateful that so many authors had something to say, and that I am here to receive their words.
8. Animals. Pets are our greatest teachers and our closest companions. Many pet owners speak about how their much-loved creatures embody unconditional love, and I agree fully. I truly feel that the word passion itself is most defined in my convictions about animals. The meaning of the word comes from the Greek word ‘pathos,’ for suffering, signifying the suffering of Christ on the cross. Animals, particularly pets, embody the idea of suffering when they are abused or ill-treated. I am passionate about helping animals who suffer, and help my local rescue shelter in any way I can.
9. Food. It is obvious that we could not live without food, but my passion for food goes beyond survival. I’ve recently begun the spiritual practice of mindful eating, and it has taught me so much about being alive. Pausing to fully engage the 5 senses at a meal adds dimension and meaning to food. I have so much to be grateful for, and abundant food is a primary focus. I find saying grace, even if I’m eating alone, is most helpful in orienting me toward a mindful eating experience.
10. Growing things. Although I live in New York City, I live walking distance from a beautiful public garden, and frequent my area’s botanical gardens often. I relish the change of seasons and how it affects the greenery in my environment. Additionally, I seek out my city’s abundant farmers’ markets when I can. My home, as one could imagine, is filled with green: plants in every room, cut flowers in the dining room, and herbs growing in the kitchen. Whether it’s plants or minds, I love watching something unfurl and develop and bloom.
In developing interests, we not only get closer to the very core of ourselves, but we also prepare ourselves for satisfying relationships. What are your passions?