Passion(s)

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So recently I've developed a passion for mathematics; I've always kind of had a passion for words and literature and the written word, etc.  But I also often wonder how passions are developed.  For instance, I wasn't always so great at math; it was something that started out really easy to me until I lost all confidence in it.  Eventually, however, I kept practicing and picking at it until I could do higher mathematics better than my peers.  The problem is: I really have no passions.

And what are passions?  How do you get passionate about something?  There's this romanticized fantasy about what constitutes passion.  People will say, "I'm passionate about people, animals, chemistry, etc," but we never really examine how people became passionate.  And I think the main cause of people never getting it is because of schools.  Passions never really seem to be explored because passions are thrust upon you.  If you dislike a certain subject or are not innately talented or any number of variables, you're labeled as lazy or, worse, a receptacle of contempt.  People will look at you and think, "Why don't they get this?  These fucking pricks, are they stupid or just apathetic?"  And it makes me wonder, "Well...you are a teacher of ONE subject, a subject that you've studied in-depth for 5+ years consistently and are now tasked with inspiring others to follow suit.  You figure it out, dumbass..."  

But we do tend to nurture those things that make us feel good and feel special.  Whether it's film, actors, cards, mechanics, or whatever, we somehow come back to what made us feel like existing in the first place.  And there are several theories about how these passions come about, one is that we are born with a certain desire; however, I tend to follow the other side of that equation whereby you become passionate about something because you got good at it.  

So, I guess my question is about what are you passionate and when did you first discover that you were passionate about your subject/field?


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Probably a boring response to some, but music. I grew up in a shitty part of the country (for someone like me, of course) my only saving grace, other than reading, was getting out and seeing the world through touring and playing music.

I had an argument with a friend recently. He suggested I check something out, can't even remember what it was, but I was like "you know, I've looked at it, but I don't think it's my thing." He came back with some response about how I used to say Game of Thrones, or Destiny, or Halo, or other things that I've since become a big fan of didn't used to be my thing. He's a contrarian that projects, I suppose.

What it really comes down to is this, right place right time. Sometimes something doesn't resonate with you, perhaps because of where you are in life. Maybe that TV show doesn't hit close to home, or that game doesn't suit your interests at the moment, or that musician doesn't give you the chills. Maybe they will later, maybe they won't. But I think passions are very much a result of where you are as a person when you discover them, and the effect they have on you.

Sorry, that was a recent thing on my mind, didn't mean to ramble on. Music, it saves lives.


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Don't apologize.  Ramble away.  I want to know as much as possible

Also, I agree with you about music.  It's another one of my passions.  I know I'll never be good at making music, but music is one of the things that actually evokes feelings in my life.


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A passion is something that evokes strong emotion; something that makes you feel excited and alive. What specifically triggers those feelings is not something I can answer, but with all things I know of that people are passionate about, there is a sense of discovery that can always be expanded, the ability to get better at that something (whether it's say, knowledge of music and music styles, or working on cars), and the ability to have your attention wholly captured by that something for long periods of time. I think a passion can also be something that makes you feel whole, like what you're doing/pursuing is meant for you. Maybe it reveals in some small way insight on how life works. Or maybe it makes you feel free from all of the negative emotions life has. 

For me, my passions seem to oscillate between certain really neat video games and projects that require a lot of design and some creativity. And yeah, I don't know  anyone who doesn't love music. You find that one song that just resonates with how you're feeling, and you'll be high as a kite listening to it. AOE2 also seems to be a bit of a passion for me. It was maybe the second or third video game I ever played, and I loved it. I got lost in the scenario editor looking at every different unit available and  painting the silliest maps you could think of. I played games with my family that lasted for hours. If memory serves me right, we got game times up to 8 hours at least once. Then I played a bit online in high school, getting ok for an entry-level player. I gave it up after a few months due to my addictive personality because I was getting super busy with  school and life. 6 years later (Dec 2016), I've picked it back up after seeing some pretty neat vids of games that made me really nostalgic. Seriously, even though I'm  pretty mediocre at it, it's still the most enjoyable game ever. There's always the chance for a surprise, there's always room to improve, and there's a community that for the most part is very nice to be around. My friend's list on Steam has grown from about 2 to something closer to 22 since starting up again. And once in a while, you get a game that is the perfect match-up where everyone plays at their best  and there is a long hard struggle that you only win or lose because someone decided to do something very clever to break the tie. Nothing beats the feeling when it's your team that wins in those cases. And other times, there are games that are so ridiculous that everyone just stops taking them seriously, laughing their way through to the end. It's just a game that always has and  always will resonate with me, so I suppose you can say I have a bit of a  passion for it. 


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LysdesticMusic, it saves lives.

In my case, it genuinely did.

Passion 1: Music.
My parents are the very dictionary definition of tone dead. They could not carry a tune to save their lives. Yet somehow, I almost naturally understand music. I started playing drums at about the age of 6, and guitars only a few short years later.

When I was late teens, I was in a situation where I was always last in everything, if I was ever included at all. Everyone was better at everything than I was. Even things I spent years doing and perfecting, even the newest guys were still instantly better than I was. Even video games, Mario Kart, Goldeneye 007, you name it, I was always last place. That is why I stopped playing multiplayer games. I have hated multiplayer games since N64.

As a result, I hated even the fact that I was alive at all. I already had my suicide completely planned out. I was only waiting for the best time when my death would actually be noticed.

On a side note, that is why I didn't join the military immediately out of Secondary School, which was the biggest mistake of my life. That was also why I didn't attend University until years later, which was another big mistake.

Then my cousin informed me that he was looking for a drummer. Without anything to lose, I brought my drum kit to his practice space. Turns out, I actually enjoyed music. Before, it was just an interesting thing to do. But actually PLAYING, that, I genuinely enjoyed. I finally found SOMETHING I can do, and SOMETHING I can be GOOD at. As a result, I was genuinely happy for the very first time in my life. So I stayed with that band all the way until life took us all on our own separate ways. There were marriages, there was going to University, there was moving away.

I was alone again. So, without anything else to live for, I went right back to suicide again.

A few short months later, that same cousin told me he formed a new band, and is looking for a bassist. And once again, I was happy. That lasted a few short years, but after we all graduated, life took us all our separate ways.

After that, I went from band to band. None have lasted very long. Military, University, name it. BUT, at the very least, I was playing music. I have been with this current band for close to three years. Even though we have never played at anything larger than local bars, and the drummer and rhythm guitarist have never recorded anything, and we cannot find a vocalist, at least I am playing music. I know now that as long as playing music remains a constant part of my life, life is tolerable, even enjoyable at times.

So if you meet me in real life, you will find I am one of the biggest guitar nerds you will ever meet. I have several guitars, and each of them are all in different tunings. And if I had the spare income, I would be a guitar collector as well. Best of all, I even got to speak with Corey Whitney, was given (for free) some of his early prototype Dragon Heart plectrums, and give him my feedback. All of my input, literally ALL of it, it all went into the final product, which are now the ONLY plectrums I use. That alone is worth more to me than collecting guitars. I love the fact that guitarists today can have that sort of impact on how products are designed.


Passion 2: Dogs.
Growing up, I always had a dog. I never NOT had a dog. As a result, I never realized how much that benefited me until almost a year ago to the day. Last year, April 25th, my Labrador died of cancer. I was not able to bring myself to get another dog until October because I felt as though that would be replacing Baby. Those months were the first time in my life I ever DIDN'T have a dog. Without that, I never realized just how much I genuinely NEEDED a dog in my life. If anything, I needed Baby more than she needed me.

During those months, I was unstable, to say the least. The slightest thing would set me off. I even yelled at the band guys.

Then I got my little Yorkshire Terrier, and life was instantly better. It was a night and day change, and an overnight change as well.


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I have a passion for cooking. Haha 


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Over the past year or so, I've more or less been coming to peace with the idea that happiness – even to an extent passion – is a skill that we develop. A lot of that skill seems to lie in what we choose to pay attention to, and how we reflect on and label our physical feelings when we are paying attention. What people don't tell you about passions is that to have a great passion is to have something that you would be happy being poor with. You hear about people who spend years of their lives in abject poverty before they get a break and what they're interested in, if they get such a break at all, and I don't think most people would be okay with that. (I have to a certain extent chosen it myself, I've taken jobs far beneath the pay I know I could get because I knew it would put me in a position in such and such an organisation where I wouldn't be bored - where the work that would be given to me would be engaging if nothing else.)

There are things that I am passionate about, I am passionate in my dislikes about certain organisational structures and practices that seem little more to me than ritualised abuse, and by like measure the opposite of those practices and structures seems to make me happy. But most of my happiness is the result of the slow every day making sense of the world, creating things that make life make a little more sense. And that is closer to an absence of boredom than it is any great passion. Increasingly, I discover that the things I was passionate about in the past no-longer move me as greatly as good relationships and money.

As to the rest, I suppose it's a work in progress. There are people that I'm happy to be around, and spend time with, I have had some moments of genuine joy from the presence of people who I would count as friends. And that is a significant improvement on the years before, though how long that will last and whether I've simply been lucky in my relationships this time around, unlucky the rest, or found the trick of liking people I am not entirely sure yet.


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I think people mistake passions for hobbies.

If you take that definition to be true, then I used to have lots of passions.

I used to be 'passionate' about science fiction. I had vociferous arguments online about science fiction universe's, what constituted 'hard' sci-fi, which works were seminal and which were derivative. I probably phrased them differently.

I used to be 'passionate' about physical fitness. Since the age of 21, there wasn't a week where I didn't go to the gym. I had a dietary regime (and alcohol intake often disrupted that, but I took steps to accommodate it). I used to think that a healthy body would influence a healthy mind.

I was 'passionate' about literature, too. I based my entire career around that, hoping that my less-than-eloquent grasp of language and my well-read nature would sustain me and open doors for me.

And of course, I was 'passionate' about video games. It was what brought me here, or whatever is left of here, in the first place. I thought them to be a legitimate art form. I thought they were important to me. I assumed that by personally investing in them, I was giving my life further meaning. 

I was wrong.

These aren't passions. These are hobbies.

I've since learned that most human beings have the same 'passions' as each other. To love, and be loved. To support your family, and be able to rely on their support in turn. To feel like you have value in this world that is so harsh, and to know what that value is. To be respected.

Without these things, we are lost, and we try to fill them in with irrelevancies. That doesn't work. That can never work. And if you don't have these things, you need to find them.

Otherwise, you'll be calling stamp collecting a 'passion' and expecting that it will somehow offer you fulfilment. It won't, it can't, and you'll end up suffering for it in the meantime.


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I was thinking about this over the past week and I came to the conclusion that maybe passion is the wrong word.  The more I think about how we develop certain skills and foster them the more I realize how much of a matter of taste most things are.  Our taste in music, art, subjects and so on.  As a brief example I used to abhor math and do my best to avoid it; however, once I got to college and started studying hard subjects I realized just how important it is to learn and dedicated time to teaching myself.  Eventually, I got to the point where I was good at it and take pleasure in doing it.  It was an acquired taste and it seems acquiring tastes is something that simply comes about through effort and conditioning.  I'm not exactly sure it isn't just Stockholm syndrome, but there it is...

The same thing I think applies to losing tastes.  Recently the more time I spend learning electronics and technology the less and less I enjoy it to the point where I think I may end up a Luddite

Point being is that interest and study doesn't seem to be primarily or, at the very least, solely on preternatural talent but on whether we have the motivation.  Obviously if you want to get better at something you practice, but without the necessary motivation (taste) it's just not going to happen without extensive tutoring and emotional blackmail. 


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I don't know about that. People do hard things that aren't in line with their tastes without being emotionally blackmailed or tutored. Not all of them, granted, but if you've got something that you need to learn or do for some higher goal that you do more directly value. I mean think about it, most people have no taste for the work they do - but they kinda like eating and having a roof over their heads, and maybe they like being able to provide for a family, or at the very least they find the alternatives even less attractive than working. That's not a matter of taste for the immediate activity nor of emotional blackmail, that's just a matter of 'You valued something.'


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Hrm...I guess I should say I was sort of unconsciously thinking about post-secondary education specifically.  I mean there's a difference in risk between working to live and working to live comfortably.  That's not to imply an automatic guarantee of a comfy life because of a degree, but it can help your chances.  At least so they tell me...

I dunno...I think I'm just losing it...


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Adrian ŢepeşHrm...I guess I should say I was sort of unconsciously thinking about post-secondary education specifically.  I mean there's a difference in risk between working to live and working to live comfortably.  That's not to imply an automatic guarantee of a comfy life because of a degree, but it can help your chances.  At least so they tell me...


Sure, and depending on how highly you value a comfy life, how aligned you think a post-secondary education is with that value, and how terrible you find education, you will or won't pursue that course of action.

Adrian ŢepeşI dunno...I think I'm just losing it...


Maybe? The problem is that losing it feels a lot like figuring it out, because going somewhere new and then finding where you are first involves getting a bit lost.

Not just in a physical sense, obviously. In anything new, of any description, you're always going out a little beyond what you have evidence you can accomplish. You're always going out beyond the knowledge structures that you already have, and you're always stumping up some faith that you'll be equal to taming the wilds; whether those be some new frontier of geography, humanity, or of knowledge.

And it's very easy to feel adrift in that sort of environment; whether it be college, or a new job, or anything else. Especially if you don't have stable touchstones that you can return to. Especially protracted over time. Especially when what you're hoping to find in the wilderness is some way off.

The older I get, the more I'm convinced that one's creativity comes down in large part to how comfortable they are with that sort of insanity. People need to actually be intelligent, a creative person with an IQ of 50 is, like as not, just going to be doodling with Crayons for the rest of their life. But nonetheless tolerance for that sort of insanity seems, in my observation, a large component.

Don't get me wrong: It's not a low risk strategy to attempt something new. And the more novel it is, both on a personal level and on a societal level, the higher that risk is. Maybe you go out into the frontiers and get eaten by a bear, maybe you attempt a relationship and it mentally breaks you in some way, maybe you stump up that faith that there's something good at the end of it all and it doesn't work out. There's always that balance to be struck between the value of what might be out there and what one is risking. Too far in either direction, both for individuals and for societies, and you lose the ability to function effectively.

The only constant in all of this seems to be that, regardless of whether you win or lose, fighting the things that live in the darkness makes you stronger if it doesn't break you entirely. One of the choices that we all have to make, if we want to be worth anything, is the choice as to whether we own ourselves or not. If you meet the monsters out there and submit to them, then you're owned. Anyone or anything at least that monstrous controls you. If you don't submit? Well... that's something truly formidable.

That, I suppose I would argue, is a reasonable definition of Nietzsche's Ubermensch; something that creates its own values as an aesthetic expression of what it found worthwhile in the wilderness (or on the mountain, as may be the case.) Necessarily so, because something that strong has to. I mean, hell, at that point who else is gonna do it for them? Whether they like it or not they own themselves at that point and pretending otherwise isn't going to be a helpful strategy - nor one they could readily believe.

The good news is there is always that chance to become stronger by facing up to the unknown. The bad news is there's always the chance to lose yourself in it. Choose one or the other very carefully 


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I was actually thinking of Kierkegaard: "One must learn to know oneself before knowing anything else. Not until a person has inwardly understood himself and then sees the course he is to take does his life gain peace and meaning." But I guess that works too   I'm not sure anyone can really find out who they are without visiting the strange places.  I think ultimately it comes down to mental illness in my case.  It manifests itself in so many weird ways: fear of letting people down, letting people live my life for me, never knowing what to decide, but there are times when the madness has actually done something positive, even if it wasn't obvious at the time.  My current mode of therapy is, interestingly enough, called exposure therapy.  The only way to "get rid of it" is to allow it to become so normal as to minimize the effect.  To face the monsters and let them have their way until they become just another acquaintance @_@  

All that being said...coming up with an identity and set or values is frightening to me.  What if I pick the wrong one?  You only get probably two or three chances in life to ever really nail the whole self-actualization thing, and then...?  

And people wonder why I've never been able to sleep


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Adrian Ţepeş
I was actually thinking of Kierkegaard: "One must learn to know oneself before knowing anything else. Not until a person has inwardly understood himself and then sees the course he is to take does his life gain peace and meaning." But I guess that works too I'm not sure anyone can really find out who they are without visiting the strange places. I think ultimately it comes down to mental illness in my case. It manifests itself in so many weird ways: fear of letting people down, letting people live my life for me, never knowing what to decide, but there are times when the madness has actually done something positive, even if it wasn't obvious at the time. My current mode of therapy is, interestingly enough, called exposure therapy. The only way to "get rid of it" is to allow it to become so normal as to minimize the effect. To face the monsters and let them have their way until they become just another acquaintance @_@


If you go out and fight with monsters, you're gonna get hit. Getting hit doesn't mean the other guy's winning, or you're letting him do whatever he wants. He wants you to go back to your room and curl up in a ball for the rest of your life. Fuck that guy 

You're doing what makes sense to you to do, they're bringing all their shit to the party, and you're still standing. Fuck 'em.

Adrian Ţepeş
All that being said...coming up with an identity and set or values is frightening to me. What if I pick the wrong one? You only get probably two or three chances in life to ever really nail the whole self-actualization thing, and then...?

And people wonder why I've never been able to sleep


I don't know about that. There's at least a couple of ways of thinking about picking the wrong values, or creating the wrong identity.

One way to respond to it is just to say that something can only be right or wrong in light of another set of values. That's the normative answer in the absence of a sound meta-ethics. Chances are god ain't gonna show up at the end and be all, 'Didn't you read my book man? Jesus Christ. I literally wrote all this shit down.'

The other way of looking at it is that right and wrong gain their meaning in terms of whether a description matches an observation. If I said that my desk was purple, I would be wrong since I observe it is some colour other than purple.

That's probably the more philosophically interesting way to look at the problem, and has a couple of nice properties in the answers it suggests:

If you look at things that way, then you already have an identity and some values that you can be right or wrong about. And that seems a reasonable statement to make - you may not know what you are, but it seems that you are something rather than nothing. You also, probably, have some set of values already. Like, maybe they're not particularly well defined, but you do some things in the world and if you valued nothing, then you wouldn't have motive to do anything.

The answer to what happens if you get things wrong under those conditions is just that as long as you're wrong you won't do as well as you could have done in life. You won't find it as valuable to you, since chances are you won't just luck into what's valuable to you by doing the same things over and over.

The question then becomes something closer to, 'How do I find out what ought to have value to me? How do I take these smaller values that I have and make them into bigger more abstract values that can serve as a template for how I ought to live my life?'

And part of that's going to come from experience, necessarily - I would argue - because we need something to act upon us to perceive the results of our subconscious. We can't know, absent any experience whatsoever, how we're going to feel about things (though as life goes on we can make better and worse guesses). The other part comes from reflecting upon that felt experience, picking out the similarities - reviewing things that have happened to us and our response to them.

And that's not an act of self-realisation done once, that's something that there's the opportunity to do every time you get up in the morning... To become more familiar with your values and to make them into new stronger values based on what you've found out about yourself and the world.

Weirdly, considering Kierkegaard was writing from a broadly Christian tradition, that seems to mirror items of his own philosophy. Insofar as he thought that faith needed to be continually affirmed - (or at least there are statements to that effect in some of his writings, he seemed to like concealing the author's viewpoint intentionally) - an act of value was something that had to be developed throughout one's life.

Of course the question that then occurs is, 'Am I in a position to maximise my values?' And the answer, more often than not for most people is going to be 'No.' e.g.

'Okay, maybe I have these values - and maybe I find them throughout my life. But I have maybe three cracks at a big career across my life - and how terrible if I discover that what I valued was creating the Death Star and instead I'm a cab driver.'

But I would suggest that may not be what values are for. Maybe the question needs to be switched around. Not 'Does this situation maximise my values?' But instead, 'This is the situation, within it how do I maximise my values?'

I suspect as long as one is asking the latter question, rather than the former, one will do the best that they can in a given situation - even if doing the best that they can finally involves leaving that situation for a better one from the perspective of their value-realisation - because it's always possible to make even some small steps to improve things in any situation relative to a given goal or value structure. You can make almost anything terrible, and whilst you can't make almost anything good you can make almost anything better. And that upward trend is worth having.

I don't think you get one crack at self-realisation and if you miss it, then you're screwed forever. I think we're all in a messy world and we do the best we can, and occasionally we really fuck things up. And that's okay, because we get cracks at it all throughout our lives whenever we choose to reflect and make a genuine effort. The world isn't completely covered in banana peels, so as long as you've got that occasionally things get better

I don't know whether that helps you sleep at all, but ya' know, comforting thoughts


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Arguing for a conclusion helps to put things in perspective, so it's comforting on one level or another

Over the past few years I've worked to put that model of assigning value into practice because the older I get the more I realize how little the possibility of ever completing pipe dreams really is, and so instead I say, "Well, I work in this place that is nowhere near what I wanted, but I can still be civil and still strive to educate myself and have interesting conversations with people and advance myself because of it."  And in some ways it's helpful to think, "Well it could be worse," while at other times that's not so helpful.  At my core, my ultimate metaphysical goal is and always has been to progress and achieve a higher foothold than the one I had yesterday.  Sometimes that works and sometimes it doesn't.  Though I won't deny learning something new implicitly and explicitly is a feeling not easily matched by much else.

Probably the majority of my thoughts revolve around what it is I value and how to apply them, and that changes CONSTANTLY because there's sometimes too much to think about in a 12-hour period, but I find it's worth the thought.  In same ways though, focusing on deciding what to pursue just gets in the way of pursuit.  So I agree, experience plays a key role.  I guess it goes back to my previous thread about knowing that we don't know.  To be honest...after all is said and done what I've found to be of great value is the search for great value and a life of contemplating it.  Unfortunately that doesn't always put food on the table or keep the pilot light on, but I guess if you have enough skills to market yourself anything's possible.  And you don't have to be a professional philosopher, but...shit...if I could get paid to do it I think I would

NemmerleIf you go out and fight with monsters, you're gonna get hit. Getting hit doesn't mean the other guy's winning, or you're letting him do whatever he wants. He wants you to go back to your room and curl up in a ball for the rest of your life. Fuck that guy 

You're doing what makes sense to you to do, they're bringing all their shit to the party, and you're still standing. Fuck 'em.


Aye, it's ironically having success too.  I'm reminded of a line from a Beautiful Mind when John Nash said about his hallucinations, "If I don't feed them, eventually they'll starve."