Having a passion about something - or someone - can be an impressive motivator and source of energy. I've always envied people who discover a passion in their childhoods and then follow it through all their days. It often leads people to accomplish a great deal in their lifetimes and become living wonders, possessing drive and knowledge far beyond that of most mere mortals. Jane Goodall and Edith Patch are two such people. Their focus and willingness to exclude other life options in pursuit of their love, primate research and entomology respectively, is admirable. These women are exceptional, not just because of what they have contributed, but also because that single driving passion they held dear to despite the odds against them. I imagine it takes not only tenacity but faith to follow a dream formed by a small child. Faith in one's self and in the rightness of their own pursuit.
But then, there are those who are brilliant because of their inability or unwillingness to limit themselves to one thing. The continuously distracted dreamers with eyes always shifted towards the windows, minds a thousand miles away. Those that when you look back on the trail, expecting them to be just step behind, have actually stopped fifty feet back and are engrossed in minute inspection of something extraordinary you've completely missed when you went past. Two examples of people too clever to buckle down and drive towards a single purpose are Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking. Their generalist nature is precisely why they were able to make connections between seemingly unrelated phenomena and reveal revolutionary ways of understanding the universe.
I wonder - if I must choose for my children - which way of living is better. Would I will them to discover a passion that creates a road map that they follow their entire lives? It seems that to be definite is easier, and that immersion, that faith, in something drives them to go places so few could or would be willing to go.
Or would it be better to throw away any hint of blinders, knowing that there are infinite experiences and knowledge to be had. Would it be better to sacrifice faith so that unbridled curiosity can reign, taking my babes down unfamiliar and unexpected pathways. Brief passions that burn bright and then flare out quickly can cause a lot of heartache but yet the eclectic bits of knowledge generalists pick up and put into their pockets eventually weave into a unique, world-changing, way of seeing.
I can't choose for them, and, frankly, wouldn't want to. Such a choice would be way too much responsibility for me. With these young people in my care, not know how life will unfold for them and where their interests will take them, I only can facilitate their passions as they develop and, when and if those passions fade away, mourn quietly and try not to get hung up on something that isn't for them, right now. We all walk a balance between what we want to do and what we should do, sticking to something that is causing us difficulty and finally letting go of something that is not going to work. Balance and determination and openness to serendipity. All I ask is that my children accept whatever form their passions take, whether a lifelong pursuit or brief sparks that fade away quickly, and they use that energy to grow wise and kind towards themselves and others.