Lately I’ve been thinking about the source of one’s passion.
I talked with a friend recently who told me they’re struggling to find a career they’re passionate about. He made the jump to say such passion, and such a career, would likely be linked with him finding purpose. Passion stems from purpose, which is of course, the point … (presuming we are to persist in propagating this pulsing pattern of pedantic puerile puffery).
I know, for example, I have a passion for creative expression. I am an obsessive when in the throes of an interesting project, whether big or small. Whether it’s a CD, a show, or jokes and jokes and jokes.
I do feel I’m obsessed with blogging right now.
I see this whole world I have ignored for so long, and *he says blushing* I do have a little fire burning. I am writing with purpose. And I wish each post could be perfect.
And so now I’m thinking passion and purpose are also directly related to the pursuit of perfection. When we are passionate, whether it’s for a lover, a job, or a blog, we feel like we are on the trail of something. Something big. And I think that something is perfection.
Which is why we invariably lose some of that passion over time. We find out, yet again, perfection is not at the end of this road.
(but more on this later)
Since some people say I’m smart, and everyone says I’m crazy, and nobody says I’m your typical cookie-cutter Negro, I’ve thought a lot about the origins of my sensibility. Which inevitably leads to thoughts about family.
Maybe the dichotomy of nature and nurture is an illusion. When you think about it, everything could be all wrapped up into one big parent package. There are the genes your parents gave you. And then there’s whether or not your parents were around to buy you jeans.
More or less, that is the long and short of all the nature and nurture business.
And so maybe all that passion and purpose and perfection we seek is rooted in family. Who raised you, and how did they do it?
By most accounts, I grew up in an abnormal environment.
My parents were married and had me just before they could legally drink. And they were divorced and in a custody battle soon after they could legally drink. My mother originally had custody, but gave me up when I was five. My only contact with her after that parting were three kidnappings, twice off the street, once out the classroom.
My father during the formative years was a world-traveling musician. He wasn’t around consistently until I was about ready to head off to boarding school.
To make that long story short (and this short story longer), I got a lot of counseling as a child. And over the years I’ve had a lot of people raise their eyebrows when hearing about my childhood. Which means, I guess, that it was imperfect. But I think that imperfection, as with many other “passionate but tortured artist types” fuels the fire. The burning need to prove oneself through purpose. Through the pursuit of perfection.
But sometimes I wonder, what if I had a perfect upbringing? What would I be then?
Now it’s easy to say, “no family is really perfect.” That’s the semantic argument. But I do think there are perfect families out there, I think they are rare, but they exist.
I won’t do a huge analysis of what a perfect family would be, but the basics as I see it would be a mother and father that love each other and their child unconditionally, an extended family that fit their roles to a tee with no drunk uncles/rotten apples, money, and have it all covered by the veil of anonymity (i.e. no celebrities). Celebrity only causes issues, and the point of perfection is to not have any issues.
So if this model of perfection is your family, from what well do you draw passion? If you are natured/nurtured in perfection maybe passion, by virtue of being linked to the pursuit of perfection, is inaccessible for you.
Don’t get me wrong. You can get excited. Things stiffen, things moisten, things get all tingly inside. But real passion? Real purpose? I wonder…
The awareness of our imperfection is that which both frees and shackles us. And there’s no nature/nurture combination that can remove that knowledge because it is us. This is why self-effacement is always the safe bet for a public persona. Because our conscience says,
“You arrogant fool you can’t possibly think of yourself as perfect. Perfection is an idea we came up with to help identify ourselves. It is something that we are not, and therefore helps us see who we are. We want it, we worship it, we fight for it, but it is not for us to possess. So stay humble.”
So we hate on Terrell Owens, Simon Cowell, Omarosa and anyone else who acts like they're the shit. Like they're perfect.
Of course a child from the perfect family would naturally be aware of their pedigree. Maybe too aware. And therein lies the rub. You need imperfection to ground yourself in humanity. You need it to have the revelation, the dramatic second act finale, the epiphanic moment.
Every father/son movie, and every mother/daughter movie has the moment where child realizes the parent is imperfect. They realize parents make mistakes just like them. And that they are the one sometimes in need of chastising and punishment. And that they are, after all, human.
But what if the moment doesn’t happen?
If you had a perfect family, you would never have that moment. Your parents would have raised you with the perfect balance of reverence and reality. You know they’re human, but you also know they’re somehow perfect.
So you can tell a story without an arc, but you can’t tell a compelling story without an arc. You need change. You need evolution. You need an error, and then *ahhhhhh* the correction. We triumph again.
This is the primal lesson in any class or book on writing for film, tv, or print.
It may be the primal lesson in any class or book on living.
Children from perfect families are like walking in on the end-credits of a great film. You can see and feel all the goodness that must have happened, but you probably don’t care because you missed the story. You missed the drama. You missed the passion. The purpose. The pursuit of perfection. The point.
Maybe a lack of passion or purpose is the backlash from having a perfect family.
All of us passionate, inspired, starving artists are busy trying to fix ourselves through creative expression and obsession.
But those from perfect homes ain't broken.
And if it ain’t broke, how do you fix it?
I told my friend maybe he's having trouble finding passion because he was raised in a perfect family. He's always had unconditional love at his disposal, so there's no fundamental drama to his life.
He said, "maybe you're right, but I think I just need to get laid."
He's probably more right than I am