Passion is the territory of the young

Posted: Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Last year, I read an article in a magazine called "Spirituality and Health," about a woman whose passion was surfing. Living in California, she was frequently able to indulge this passion. After having surgery for breast cancer, she decided not to do chemotherapy or radiation-she chose instead to entrust herself to the healing power of the ocean. She started surfing again, every morning, as soon as she was able.

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I have no doubt that this woman's passion for the ocean was instrumental in her healing and her survival - how much so is hard to say. Maybe it was the key factor; maybe she was just lucky - who knows? But this article did lead me to think a lot about passion, and joy and life.

If I ask you, "What is your passion; what gives you joy?", what would you answer? Some might say, "Who has time? I'm just trying to get by." We tend to think of passion as the territory of the young, or of professionals who make their living in the arts. As we move through life and become responsible for homes and families and careers, or "just getting by," passion often takes a backseat. We feel like we have little time to indulge.

OK, so maybe passion is too big an idea to start with. Let's step back: What do you do for fun? Cooking, music, playing with the kids? Maybe you find fun in working with others on a particular cause. Or do you love movies, or dancing, or having tea with friends? Or maybe it's been too long since you've had any fun, either-fun can also get shoved away by responsibility. Who has time for fun between work and carpools and laundry and paying bills?

And besides, look at the state of the world: war in Iraq, North Korea's nuclear tests, genocide in Darfur, the suspension of habeus corpus, starvation across the world, global warming-the list seems endless. Then there are our own personal worries about jobs, finances, health issues, our kids. Fun seems pretty frivolous in the face of all that. Who has the time or the energy to take time out?

But as a good friend of mine says, in the Judeo-Christian tradition taking time out is a commandment, not a suggestion. According to the Ten Commandments, one of the things we are required to do is to "honor the Sabbath," which means more than going to church or synagogue. It is a practice of rest, of time set apart from the general busyness of our lives. Part of taking such a break is having fun, experiencing joy.

I'm beginning to think that an antidote to fear is joy. We are so overwhelmed by fear and anxiety and responsibility that we can easily become separated from the Source, from God, from joy. Jesus said he came that we might have abundant life. This abundance is about more than having lots of things. It is about quality of life-it is about joy.

The woman who surfed everyday knew that by feeding her soul she would help heal her body-she recognized that body, mind, and spirit are not separate, that we are whole beings. She also understood that life without joy is meaningless. We can have all the things in the world and live forever, and still not experience joy.

We are taught a lot about our responsibilities, and there is certainly joy in helping others. But there are many metaphors for the part we are taught to ignore as selfish: priming the pump, filling the well, etc. After all, if the well runs dry, there's nothing left to give away. Joy feeds us, fills us up, keeps us going.

So what will you do for yourself this week that is fun, that feeds your passion, that brings you joy? We often let fear hold us back-we are so afraid of being judged as unworthy or less than or not good enough, or that we'll do it wrong. But remember when you were a child, and you didn't care if you colored outside the lines-you just had fun? So what if we're not all Tina Turner or Eric Clapton, or that we won't all qualify for the Boston Marathon, or that we don't know much about painting or throwing pots, or that we'll fall off that surfboard yet again. Let's not allow the fear to control us. Let's do it-whatever it is-anyway. Let's do it for the pure enjoyment of it-let's do it for joy.

• Kathleen Wakefield is the reverend at Holy Trinity Episcopal Church.

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