Monday, 13 March 2017

Different Shades of Passion

Many years ago I noticed a pattern when it comes to meeting people I know. I realised that whenever I bump into acquaintances whom I haven’t seen in a while, most of the time the conversation seems to be one-sided — the talking is coming more from my side. I wasn’t sure if it was because I’m talkative and a natural storyteller and hence usually have things to say about what’s going in my life, or because they don’t have anything exciting happening in theirs; and even if things were exciting, not many have that ability to make it sound exciting when talking to others. People could also simply be shy or not talkative. I wanted to know why this was the case so I started digging.

Said query took me back to my mid-20s when I was working for 5-Star hotels and real estate. I would sometimes meet school buddies after 7 or 8 years of not seeing each other. “So how is it going, what are you doing these days?” they would ask. Despite not having much passion towards those corporate jobs I held at the time, I still had something to say, which, depending on the person, would take up most of the chit-chat. Something around “I’m working at this new hotel where the Royal Suite is for $10,000 per night,” is the kind of catchword I would blurt out — the pitch.


When I would return the question, most of the times the answers were pretty straight forward and close-ended. “I work for Schlumberger” or “I’m a doctor or an engineer like my dad” were the type of responses I commonly received, which rarely ever preceded anything else to be said. 
Other times I would get “Working for the same company for the past 11 years and with a wife and two kids, I’ve chosen the quite life,” implying that I haven’t.

With this observation came the will to do something about it. I didn’t know how others took it, but I wanted to add some balance to the equation by not always being the one who talks. Not that I minded, but I thought that perhaps if I listened more I will get to see a bit of passionate fire in their eyes.

However, after moving to Toronto in my early 30s and taking art and writing in particular as a vocation, naturally my stories and adventures became more interesting, for me at least. Even more so when afterwards I began writing a book about dreams, left Canada, and travelled around the U.S before reaching Venice Beach. This was when I started being frequently told — by the schoolmates, drum buddies, and even Uber drivers — that I was filled with such luciferous passion, they can actually sense it through my overall energy. What blithe. But what about them?

A particular reflection regarding these first three years into my Renaissance which I had previously shared is that whenever I was asked by strangers about what I did for life and said a sales manager, I was rarely asked what I sold. Now when I say I’m a writer I’m often asked what I write about, and overall they seem more interested.

To illustrate, I remember once taking Caramella, my late Cocker Spaniel, and going to buy wine from the local LCBO in Toronto. I had just published a big piece and was in a merry mood, resulting in chatting with the lady behind the counter. When another 40-something-year-old woman standing behind me heard that I was a writer, her eyes widened and wanted to know more. We happened to leave the store together and she kept walking with me. Once she knew I write about dreams and the subconscious mind she was even more fascinated. Apparently she’s into these topics and believe in the power of dreams. We spoke so much and so passionately, that I found it hard to end the conversation and head home. I finally gave her the name of my blog before bidding her goodbye. 

This may have been one of my earliest experiences with talking to strangers about my writing. And the scenario was repeated many more times ever since, especially after moving to Venice Beach. I guess there are more ‘crazy’ people there who vibrate on similar frequencies.

I love these interactions because they show me that more people are “waking up” to their true nature, seeking to know themselves. Those same people are also a sample of my audience, whom I know would be interested in reading my book, and my writing in general. Another reason why I enjoy these encounters is because whenever we happen to talk about certain topics we both enjoy, I get a glimpse of that fiery passion within them. You can actually see it in their eyes.

As for people I grew up with or ex-colleagues I would meet when I go back to Egypt for visits, the same one-sided conversations would often take place whenever I would bump into them. I dare saying that they became even more one-sided. One reason is that in many cases they are the ones who ask first; another is that a large portion of them already have an idea about what I do — from reading my writings and/or from being in touch on Facebook where I’m quite visible.

The facts that I left all I had in Egypt and headed towards the unknown, have been living abroad for many years, and pursuing my dream while writing a book make it more likely that I would be the one with the stories. On top of that, I’m one of very few who remained unmarried until this age, which makes me stand out compared to almost all those I grew up or worked with, and which naturally also give me the freedom to experiment with and write about whatever I wish.

When mid-conversation I would remind myself of the one-sided issue and ask them about what’s going on in their lives, many of the responses were still the same — uninteresting. Not only because there is not much to say about working as a financial analyst or in a bank or a pharmaceutical company, or because being married for 12 years and having three children is too conventional. But I hold that it’s because they themselves lack enthusiasm about their own lives, some of them at least. As a communicator as well as an empath, I’m able to sense this passionless existence from the way they speak, from their body language, their dimmed eyes, even from the way they would sometimes change the subject and go back to talking about what I do.

A recent encounter where I was reminded of the matter all over again was during a dinner date with a woman in Los Angeles. I don’t think this kind of meeting can still be labeled a “blind date”, since we virtually met first before actually going out for dinner. We were getting to know each other and naturally we spoke about my recent adventures, including leaving Egypt to Canada, then the U.S, the book, and being single after a six-year relationship. 

Conversely, she shared with me that she had also lived in a few different countries, the last of which was the U.S. Apart from stating that she lives close to her “office”, the woman somehow never mentioned what she does for a living; though it seemed somewhat evident that it was not related to art. Again, I sensed that perhaps she found her job to be too traditional compared to say, being a coddiwompling Bohemian writer, so she chose not get into it. Accordingly I didn’t ask. Needless to say, we never met again.

From my part, it has been a while since I actually stopped asking people I meet that lame “what do you do for a living?” question. Simply because you are not your job; the real you is much more than labels and titles and all that. And since a large number of people are holding these jobs just to make money and survive rather than because it’s their passion, why get there? If they feel the need to share I would certainly listen, but I will not start or steer the conversation that way, especially that I myself is a coddiwompling Bohemian writer.

This date made me once again question why the same pattern still exists. I concluded that writing became such a big part of my life, a true vocation, that it is not a ‘job’ I’m holding like the usual. In fact, I’m writing all the time; if not actually sitting on my laptop or scribbling in my notebook, I’m often thinking about writing. I’m also my own boss and that’s another substantial addition which I would never trade for anything. This was never the case when working for hotels or real estate. Once I was out of the building I was done; I would go ‘back’ to my life and the things I really want to do: play.

While separating between work and play may be the case for most folks who hold regular jobs, fortunately it is not a rule. There exist a minority who are able to mix between both states; reminding me of Mark Twain’s wisdom: “Work and play are words used to describe the same thing under differing conditions.” Indeed. That’s precisely how I feel about writing.

Another quote which describes the Flow State that I have learned to tune-into while writing comes from the sage Alan Watts: “This is the real secret of life — to be completely engaged with what you are doing in the here and now. And instead of calling it work, realize it is play.”

On that same note, For The Love Of Storytelling and Why I Share Stuff are earlier pieces for you to check out.

Caught off-guard by a cousin on a Toronto streetcar while editing my sixth
How Google Revolutionized Our Search for Knowledge and Answers, 2012

The introspection further led me to the fact that a considerable number of people lack passion when it comes to what they do in life. Naturally, this has a significant negative effect on, them and those around them first, and on humanity second. Imagine a world where everyone who has a passion pursued it; it would be transformed in no time. It doesn’t matter if you’re a financial analyst or working in a bank or a pharmaceutical company or you’re a sweet potato street vendor, because let’s be honest: We do need these practical jobs, as we also need engineers, farmers, firemen, waitresses, garbage men among other workers.

Besides, we are all unique, so what may seem dull to one may very well be enjoyable to another. It’s all in how we look at it.

Realistically speaking, not everyone is meant to teach the masses or become some prominent world figure. We obviously can’t all achieve great things, but we can do the little things in a great way. Indeed, each and everyone is able to help lift and refine the collective consciousness by living their lives the fullest way possible. For everything is connected to everything else.

One way to live a life of purpose and to keep a healthy mindset is by pursuing a passion. A hobby, an art or an activity beside the job; something to break the monotonous routine and “lighten” you up while adding excitement into your life. Who knows what could happen. Perhaps it will give you something to enthusiastically talk about whenever you meet strangers or old acquaintances and they ask “what do you do?” 

Remember that if you can’t find your purpose, you can always start by figuring out your passion; your passion then may very well lead you to your purpose.

Let us consider if an accountant or bank teller plays the flute in their free time, or takes part in monthly marathons, or get together with like-minded folks to share a certain passion. This side fun will undeniably reflect on their mindset and well-being. It will hence have a direct positive impact on the people they interact with — whether they are family members, partners, kids, strangers, colleagues, or customers — as well as their ‘job’ in general. This is how we benefit the collective by doing the things we love.

Later in life when I began religiously going to the Venice Beach Drum Circle, apart from the hippies, I also came to know people who do the regular 9-to-5 job, yet rarely ever miss the weekly gathering. As worded by a cool buddy, Andy: “The Drum Circle is my heroin. On Friday night I’m already walking around the house while holding my shaker, getting ready for Saturday.” This is what passion looks like. And there is nothing like finding those whose passions vibe with yours.

The closure to the inquiry being examined herein came to me in an unlikely form: A talk by Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of Eat, Pray, Love. It was part of SuperSoul Session: Flight of the Hummingbird – The Curiosity Driven Life which a friend had sent me. I said unlikely because this is not the usual psyhco-philosophical source I frequently use in my writing. The talk was even presented by Oprah Winfrey. Yes. However, the true magic of creativity, and of being eclectic, is that sometimes the missing jigsaw puzzle materialises in the most adventitious form; often when you least expect it.

According to the author, there are two types of passion-seekers in life. The ones who chase their dreams; those who have a definite, and perhaps clearer idea of what they want, like Elizabeth and probably like myself; she used the simile jackhammer to show how driven, obsessive, focused, and sometimes also loud they are.

The second group is comprised of those who are more like hummingbirds; because they explore different trees and fields and don’t stick to one thing or delve deep into single tunnels or projects. She proceeded to talk about the latter group, saying that a large number of people do not have that kind of “die-for” passion or “life-changing” dream. Instead, they try many different things without settling for a sole purpose.

As a result, with all the pressure and expectations about notions like “following your dream” and “finding your passion”, which are usually propagated by figures and writers, like herself, those people eventually find themselves feeling anxious, lost, beaten down... and unhappy. Elizabeth explicates that not having a passion can lead those people to a fulfilling life, simply because their wide curiosity liberates them from chasing the rainbow. She advised them to keep exploring and they will find that their curiosity could lead them to their passion. For them, the key is in not obsessing about finding it in the first place.

By looking around us, we can safely say that this is the case for the majority of the populace. In fact, you can tell that the audience was full of hummingbirds who felt a major relief after hearing this from a prolific author. I was actually happy to find how similar her advice — which she used as a punchline — to what I mentioned earlier about figuring out the passion first if one can’t find their purpose, then the purpose would follow. Same concept, we only used different wording.

As I watched the video, the neon A-ha light bulb above my head was suddenly lit. “This makes perfect sense,” I came to reckon while remembering the myriads of people I know who fit into this category. We are all unique after all as I always repeat. So perhaps my perspective was muddled by a certain personal point of reference. Perhaps some of those schoolmates and ex-colleagues are happy without having that life-changing calling, which this nefelibata is constantly ranting and raving about and urging others to seek. Unlike those of us who obsessively pursue that life of adventure and of living on the edge, the construct of ‘happiness’ for others means different things, like success in work and family, security... and a quite life


While this could be true to some of the quite types, there are still others whom I’m more inclined to believe are genuinely unhappy, due to being overworked, tensed, and passionless. Obviously I’m much more certain when they have actually confessed to me rather than from speculation based on mere observation.

What is noteworthy is that I already knew the information presented by Elizabeth. I knew that not everyone thinks the way we think or knows the things we know; that different people may take different paths to reach their mountain top. Her message actually echoed with another reflection I wrote with the Drum Circle in mind despite that it can be generalised to include any form of self expression: “We all have an inner beat; but only some are able to express it outwards.” Only by comparing with others do I feel that I may be taking up their time in addition to mine.

 In the same way, hummingbirds end up feeling unfulfilled by comparing themselves with jackhammers. But in general, nothing good comes out from comparing and we often tend to forget that. But there is absolutely no good reason to do it.

I equally agreed with her that once we stop obsessing over what we seek, it will come to us. However, her own mode of expression along the metaphors added me with a novel perspective on the subject. I’m also grateful for this synchronicity as it came in the right time while I’m putting the last touches to the book.

The below footage is a shorter, edited version of the speech.

At the very end, whether you are part of the crazy passionate folks or the other calmer majority we all need passion. What is meant here by passion is the noun, and not the activity. It is a way of living a full and interesting life. Pursuing that which we love does not have to be the main or only thing we do in life as some us have chosen. For others, like most of my schoolmates and ex-colleagues, it’s perfectly healthy to keep that passion as a hobby which one can maintain while living their regular “working” life. But to actually have something of that sort remains essential to our happiness, all of us.

As for being talkative when meeting people, it seem apparent that I do it because I enjoy it. It is part of who I am and there is no need to overthink the matter. I don’t do it with everyone, and when I do, it’s because I feel comfortable enough to share a part of my life with them. 

When I further gave these encounters a second thought, I recalled that I usually do give them the chance to also share. Though as we have seen, there are various reasons why most people are rarely as talkative.

They may lack the communication skills some of us have, hence they don’t speak much. As I sometimes suspect, maybe it’s because they have no real passion to share with me. Maybe because they are shy and not talkative in nature. Or, it has to do with what I recently learned from that talk about being quite the explorer type.

Another possibility is that they let me speak because they enjoy the stories I often tell them; this may actually be the balance needed for a fruitful conversation — which I was seeking. Imagine two storytellers talking to each other at the same time. Doesn’t sound much fun. A final possibility is that it’s a mixture of all what was previously mentioned. Lots of maybes, but the topic was certainly worth pondering and the article was worth its time. I hope it was worth yours as well.

Doing the things we love is an essential preliminary to a happy life. Indeed, we all have different priorities. So whether we are willing and able to pursue them full-time or part-time, whether they are big things or small ones, whether we dig or hum, we do need passion to make it interesting… just different degrees to different people. After all, what I truly wish is for more passionate people to light up this seemingly dim world in which we live.

Shine On and On and On.

“As if you were on fire from within. The moon lives in the lining of your skin.”
― Pablo Neruda


Who Are We? 

My Journey Towards Self-Transcendence

Connecting the Dots — a Storyteller Way of Seeing the Big Picture
For The Love Of Storytelling

Why I Share Stuff

Dealing with High Awareness and Empathic Accuracy

Why I Choose to Remain a Non-Dad for Now — Reflections on Being Childless
Why We Should Not Fear Death

Change Is The Only Constant

Things I Got Rid Of To Become Happier
Unfollow the Crowd

Personal Questions I'm Often Asked and Their Answers 

What Nomad Lions Can Teach Us About Growing Through Life

How Inspiration is Transferable
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