Friday, March 13, 2009

What is Your Passion?

Amy at Epiphany Springs asks "Do you know your passion? What is it?". An interesting question that took some thinking about. What is a passion? Where is the boundary between a passion and a hobby or interest? I have plenty of those, as you can see from my sidebar introduction. I even used the word passionate when I wrote it: "reader, writer, musician, scrapbooker, knitter, cross-stitcher, lifelong learner; passionate about Catholicism, good children's books, educational ideas (especially those of the early 20th century English educational pioneer, Charlotte Mason) and medieval history".

Thinking it through in more depth, I think I have pinned down what makes something a passion for me, and have narrowed it down somewhat. Being passionate about my family and my faith is a given, and not what I am talking about here ... I'm looking for those things that build me up; that leave me feeling refreshed and relaxed; that re-energise me. Passions lead me into a state of flow - "the mental state of operation in which the person is fully immersed in what he or she is doing by a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and success in the process of the activity" is the Wikipedia definition, and sums up exactly what I mean.

I think I have two passions, one simple enough, and one I found it hard to put a finger on, because it is broad enough to encompass a number of different interests. I enjoy various crafts, but they are relaxing hobbies rather than passions (though maybe knitting comes close). My first real passion, the easy one, is music. Not listening to music - though I do enjoy it - but playing. In times of crisis, my instinct has always been to pick up an instrument and play. The amount of music making I do fluctuates, and I go through periods where I don't play much at all, but they are usually brief. Currently my preference is playing with others rather than alone ... in the last several years I have dotted around between orchestra, wind band and brass band, according to what is most manageable. For the last couple of years I have been playing in the brass band, rehearsing a couple of times a week, which is a nice amount for now. It energises me, and I usually come home feeling more "up" than when I left. I should say that I am not a brilliant musician. I have a very modest amount of talent and pick up new instruments easily, but I am very much a "jack of all trades and master of none". The only instrument I play moderately well (by amateur standards) is the violin ... but I get the sense of energy and flow from the challenge of practicing a new instrument just as much as from playing more challenging stuff on my fiddle.

The second passion is research. I find searching for and organising information utterly absorbing. This is why I love academic history ... learning about history is interesting, but it is the research side that gets my juices flowing. One of my favourite ways to spend a day is in a research library or archive. I can get the same excitement from visiting a record office that others get from attending a big sporting event. Just walking through the door gives me a thrill, and hours pass like minutes. Who knows what I might find? All those hidden nuggets of information, the clues that allow me to piece together a puzzle, all waiting to be uncovered.

Other interests flow from this passion for research: genealogy, educational ideas and planning, learning about new subjects in general. Tevye calls me an information junkie, and a lot of my planning mania is probably rooted in the pleasure of researching things to put in my plans. I wondered whether to include books as a passion - I am a bookworm, after all! - but decided many of my literary interests are subsumed in my passion for research - reading for information, literary rabbit trails, book collecting, and putting together book lists all tie in. Maybe books are a sub-passion? Writing, similarly, is a sub-passion. I love putting together my nuggets of information into a clear, readable form. I am totally a non-fiction writer. Creative writing holds no appeal for me whatsoever. I just like collecting facts and building them into something interesting to read.

So, echoing Amy ... do you have a passion? And what is it?

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