Near the age of sixty, with no past successes in art to lean on, I decided to teach myself to paint. My first painting was the simple picture highlighted in the opening of this post. Do I have an “ability” to paint? Not really. But I so enjoyed the process of painting and the creativity it generated that I continued to paint rather rigorously for the next seven years. Interest, curiosity and desire took precedence over ability, or should I say “inability.”
Go with the Change of Heart
Seven totally delightful years of producing art with no fascinations for success or prominence was a mainstay of my life. And then, as if the passion and fervor disappeared, I quit. Overnight. Literally. It was time to move on to another curiosity and desire. Within months my life became filled by a renewed joy of writing and by serving the poor in Uganda.
The Insanity of Metrics and Measurements
In this age of metrics and measurements our inner drivers can easily be ignored when deciding what routes we may be best suited for in life. Steve Sample, the 10th president of the University of Southern California, captured these sentiments precisely in his quotation above.
Truthfully, we are built to be so much more than productive machines. In agreement with Steve Sample, I believe in the incomparable value of character, interests, curiosity and desire. Is this not part of what makes human beings distinctive from the animal kingdom? Animals are naturally productive… or they die. Humans don’t.
In fact, I think it is the incessant need for some compilation of metrics and measurements that can lead you to contrive false identities—ones that often do not synchronize with your independent “interests, curiosities and desires.” In other words, it is quite possible to be “successful” in terms of the metrics of money and power, while at the same time lacking any sense of fulfillment or purpose.
A “Burning Ball of Desire”
This week I will post a podcast with Lindsay Davis on the Overwhelming Influence of Desire. We are, each of us, “a ball of burning desire” anxious to express itself. It has nothing to do with ability and everything to do with psychic hunger.
Perhaps it is a matter of listening to the voices of your soul—YOUR soul—not the voices of a culture that wants you to Be Somebody. Because too often that “somebody” is someone other than you.