29 July 2006

Number 10, Half, On Wheat, Chips and a Drink, Please.

It's exciting for me to think about passion. Not passion in the Marvin Gaye "Let's Get It On" use of the word, but free, unbridled, contagious, take off your clothes and dance in the street excitement. Now that I think about it, that kind of passion can often lead to the Marvin Gaye passion, especially if one were to take off his clothes and dance in exuberance. Anyway. It's nothing new to know that passion is contagious. That's why political parties and college football are such huge moneymakers; you get a few people on stage acting really excited about something, maybe they'll even have a reason or ideal to be excited about, and all it takes is a few other people to catch on to that excitement, to share that love for that one reason or ideal, and it spreads. It's contagious. Everyone who sees the passion in someone else wants to know where it's going and what it would mean for them to be a part of it. If it's a cool kind of excitement, they want in on it too. When I'm watching someone be really excited about something, genuinely excited, I find myself getting a little bit emotional too. I start feeling enthusiastic, my cheeks get feverish and I get those jumpy shakes in my gut that makes me want to get in the action. Rarely do I consider the purpose of my passion. Let me say that again, for my own sake: Rarely do I consider the purpose of my passion.

When I am excited about something, and it's that just starting out, nervous anticipation excitement, I'm not thinking how this thing I'm excited about is going to impact humanity in the good ways. Nor am I thinking about the implications of my actions, or the long-term results it will bring. I can quite honestly say that when I'm really pumped about something, it doesn't bother me in the least whether or not this excitement is holy or scandalous or even just a whimsical waste of time. I don't care; I'm excited. But isn't that how we all are? We're thrilled because of first apartments, first kisses, last days at bad jobs, last days of school; we yell and scream when little guys on the TV throw balls into hoops, we set aside an hour every Sunday night for the latest installment of the sexiest TV show. We're passionate about our favorite bands, or favorite sports team, motivational speakers and even diets. People are passionate about their gym, their jobs, their hobbies, and their lapsa apsas. These are all good things. These things all help our lives go on in easier, happier ways and without them a lot of us would be totally lost. But do I ever stop and think about why I'm passionate about something?

Time for another poorly drawn parallel: I eat at a little sandwich shop around the corner from where I work called Roly Poly at least once a week, usually 2 or 3 times. I love this restaurant. I really do. If the owner ever decides to close up shop, I would be devastated and would probably send him a rude letter. Every time someone ponders out loud where they should eat their lunch, I always suggest Roly Poly. (And by suggest I mean politely demand.) I know their menu, I know their sides, I know the names of the staff and they know mine. They know my order. They know to take off the mushrooms and spicy Thai sauce even if I forget to ask them to do it. So why am I so passionate about Roly Poly? Why do I actually make room in my budget for them alone? I can list the reasons, I can say that their food is healthy, and always fresh. I can say that I get a huge meal for $6 even. The staff is awesome, and some of the guys are even kind of cute (hot delivery guys, anyone?). It's close to my job. They have fresh cookies. And on. And why? It's really just a sandwich shop with a cute name. It's not like there isn't a plethora of other lunch options around me. Other people have fresh food and cheap food and cute delivery guys. And still I've chosen Roly Poly, however unintentionally, to be MY place, MY passion in the realm of quick lunches.

That's just my example. Think of all the other mundane, actually, think about anything that people make their passion, mundane or not. I kind of forgot where I was going with this (and in doing so, succeeded in making myself hungry), but since there needs to be some kind of point somewhere, I guess I just want to start really evaluating what I'm getting excited about, and more importantly, why I'm getting excited. I think one of the easiest ways to distract people from the "why" of a thing is to get them really passionate about it. Emotions feel better than logic any day, but it's also the emotions that so easily cloud us from understanding what we're really saying. I'll confess that it is much easier to get me pumped up about going to Roly Poly to get my usual than it is to get me out of bed in the morning to go to church. Or to work a soup kitchen. Or to support honest charities. Or to talk to the people I usually wouldn't talk to. Or to be a good friend. Or to listen. Or to... you see my point? It's easier to be passionate about the silly things that don't really matter than it is to be passionate about the things that will rock this hurting world in much bigger ways. For me, at least.

I've got a friend who is absolutely nuts about his church. Without too many of the details, he came from a church that he couldn't fully get passionate about. So he decided to find one where he felt more at home, and when he did, he couldn't stop talking about it. He loves that church like part of himself, and he tells people about it. He invites people to it. He gets involved with it as if the church were his partner in a strange, mysterious, plurality of a relationship. And it's contagious. When people talk with him, and he starts smiling at the thoughts of his church, other people want to experience what he has experienced. They want to go to his church. He's not trying to sell his church to anyone, or earn cool points with the visitors committee; he's excited and wants others to have that excitement too. That's how passion works with anything, I think--that's why people talk about anything they're passionate about, because deep down, intrinsically, we want other people to share in the excitement with us and get the same feelings we get from whatever it is we're excited about. Now, this doesn't explain why women go to the bathroom in groups, but it does make clear to me that whenever I'm gushing about something, I should really stop and consider the relevance of what I'm gushing about. Because people are listening, and chances are, the things I'm most willing to talk about are the things that mean the most to me. I can talk about a sandwich shop easier than I can talk about getting people together to work a soup kitchen. When I step back and look at it, that says I love sandwiches more than I love people, and that's not something I want to live with. I need to consider the purpose of my passion.

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