College students are always being asked about their passions. That question – along with “What has God been teaching you lately” – used to strike fear and trembling into me.
My senior year of college, I thought of an answer. Sure, it’s kind of a cop-out, but I think it’s most true. I am passionate about others fulfilling their passions. It’s why I get starstruck, why I admire people, why I love going to concerts, book readings, and plays. Because they are full of people who are living their dreams. I’ve always struggled with being optimistic and idealistic about my own, but when I see that light in someone else’s eyes, that joy and love, I am inspired.
My favorite band of the moment is Mumford and Sons. I’m not really sure where they came from, but all of a sudden they were there and my life got a tiny bit better. I discovered them last summer with their blend of British folk rock, lyrics that strike straight to the soul, and tight four-part harmonies (complete with cello). Right now, they’re the soundtrack to my day, played on repeat in my office, in my car, on the ride home from the gym.
I was struck while watching their performance on the Grammys of “The Cave,” a track from their debut album (which you should own). They were different from the other acts that performed that night. Those rappers and pop stars were polished and smooth, doing what they do with swagger and cool. Not Mumford and Sons. Besides sounding stellar live, which is not something to take for granted, all four members poured their hearts into it, and – get this – they smiled. They grinned at each other with boyish excitement. Their glee was refreshing.
The same joy was evident in a tour documentary about the Mumford boys, posted on their Youtube channel. All they do is tour and play and tour and play, and they love every second of it. They just really really like performing. They feel the most themselves while they play together. One of the members said this: “When we’re not touring, we’re individuals and no one likes being individuals when you’re in a band.”
No one likes being individuals when you’re in a band.
That struck me as incredibly profound and honest. We all like to pretend we’re self-sufficient and independent. To some degree, the whole-hearted pursuit of something takes you away from others. But true passion brings the right, like-minded people together. When you find your place, find where and how you fit, find a purpose and a goal, that is when your passions are realized. Maybe it is within a band. Or an orchestra. A theatre company or a writing group. Or maybe it’s or a basketball team, or just a group of people who like to cook or bake or knit.
Passion is not solely singular, something that you yourself pursue. It is more global than that. It’s taking the experience of the self and creating or doing something that makes a difference. It incorporates other people. It shows you things larger than yourself. That’s what passion does.
My answer to that primary question is different now. My passion is stories. It’s writing my own story, and reading good books, and hearing people’s lives. My passion brings me into the lives of others, forcing me to engage with them and join with them in their own passionate stories. It makes me feel so thankful that those people – like Mumford and Sons – are doing what they love because it inspires others to pursue the same. Their passion, their joy and bright ecstatic faces, urges me forward in my own art.