On That Which Sets Our Soul on Fire

There are three things that a child can teach an adult: to be happy for no reason, to always be busy doing something, and to know how to demand, with all one’s might, what one wants.

Paolo Coelh0

A few months ago, I was talking with my boss. We had a lull between meetings, and he was telling me about the latest “toy” he had bought, a specialized telescope lens that was so new it was only available to those who had pre-ordered it several years past when the first generation of this lens had been manufactured. He was describing his plans to mount it in some custom housing, and while I nodded in pretend understanding of the details he was effusively conveying, I thought, “ah, there it is.” His passion. In that moment I could see my boss as a 12 year old boy, sitting on the roof of his house with a telescope in hand that he had built, possibly held together with duct tape (we are engineers), looking to the stars and reveling in the mysteries of the universe. I could see in my mind’s eye how that young boy had become the man before me, how he had leveraged that passion to know into a vision that drove our team to heights we had not thought possible, with himself leapfrogging positions in his career to give him the ability to implement his vision.

One of the most powerful gifts we each possess is passion. It is not something that can be faked. It’s infinitely charismatic. It’s catching. It’s inspiring. You know it when you feel it. You know it when you see it in another. It’s that moment when a person comes “alive,” their eyes sparkle, and they seem to float, when the soul is vibrating on the same frequency with the universe. It’s what moves mountains, it’s what makes the impossible possible, and it’s the conduit to reaching our highest potential.

Everyone has that spark in them. Everyone’s passion differs, but it manifests itself in the same way. It’s that activity that removes you from yourself, that makes you forget “time.” Passion is raw and inherently neutral. Passion, when welded in the hands of individuals, can lead to wondrous results. Passion, left uncontrolled, can be a destructive force that shreds the fabric others have woven. This knowledge, whether conscious or subconscious, can be overwhelming, but when we look at children, who display passion all the time, we can be reassured that it is not something that need be feared or complicated. It just is.

We are all born with the possibility to do “great things,” but what that really means is to find who we are, what we are meant to do, and live that every moment, letting passion drive our story. It’s the reason I love meeting and listening to people who have created from their passions wonders of technology, works of art, words of infinite beauty and wisdom, sounds of raw emotion, displays of compassion and caring, that seemingly capture the imprint of those individuals on the world. Not everyone has tapped their passion. Sometimes, it is hidden under all the trappings of “life” in individuals we call “jaded” or “cynical,” sometimes it is repressed because of internal fears or external stressors, and there are those who have not “found” what it is. We leave a trail, like breadcrumbs, to that which is our passion, and if we have not “found” it, we have only to follow this to uncover our treasure. (If you don’t believe me, just ask my coworkers, who will tell you when I have one or two alcoholic beverages, that I wax poetic about Pseudomonas, bioinformatics, biofilms, and antimicrobial resistance; doesn’t our true self come out when our inhibitions are lowered?). And, we stunt our growth and joy when we hide or deny our passions. “Success,” “greatness,” and other terms are just verbiage to describe the byproduct of what happens when we embrace our passions and weave our unique pattern in the fabric of the universe.

Passion is the expression of the soul in the physical world, it’s the spark that makes you alive, it’s the key to unlocking your true potential. It can take courage and honesty to discover, acknowledge, display, and follow your passion. But once unleashed, it has the ability to set the world on fire. Let your light shine bright.

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