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“What are you passionate about?”  This question, posed by Lenore Diane is a topic worth exploration. I framed the question this way: If you were to compare a bio written about youself by your friends, colleagues, and family, how would it differ from a bio about youself, written by youself? I know that I would like to be passionate about a lot of things that, to be honest, I brush by with only lip-service.

For example; I think I am passionate about politics. I have often pronounced my belief in the power of  grass-roots political engagement. By taking on local issues, we gain an understanding of how politics work and we learn skills needed to participate in the process. Local zoning issues like where dog parks are allowed, density limitations, and commercial compatibility are the proving ground for neophyte citizens. Local issues are also where we may enjoy the greatest success in effecting change or preventing change.

But have I participated in local government? Not for a long time. Aside from firing off the occasional email to a representative, I’ve avoided those grueling evening meetings that drag on into the wee hours of the morning so that every rambling idiot can have a turn at the podium. I am impatient with meetings. I’m impatient with ramblers…other than my own rambling, of course. Have I joined the Occupy Boise protesters camping downtown? No. I am uncomfortable with their unfocused platform and often strident and illogical rants. I’m also uncomfortable with catchy cheerleader chants. So I drive by and think, “Good for them.” I can’t honestly call this passion.

I think I am passionate about environmental issues. I know that humanity’s unchecked growth, industrialization, and scientific tinkering is wreaking havoc with the Mothership. But am I joining forces with the Sierra Club, the Wilderness Society, World Wide Wildlife Fund, Green America, Idaho Conservation League or any of the myriad organizations that work to minimize the damage?  No. Once again, I sit in my comfy chair, staring out the window at the mountains, occasionally firing off a hot, action-email or writing a $10 check. Again. This is not passion.

I thought I was passionate about music. But since I retired, I find that I rarely listen to music. I sit for hours in front of my computer, alone but for the cat snoozing beside me or precariously in my lap. I am content with silence. I don’t study music. I haven’t taken the piano lessons I thought I would after I retired.  I can’t put artists or lyrics together with songs. Music is a backdrop for other activities not a passion.

I’d love to say, like Lenore and other writers whom I admire, that I am passionate about writing. But even that rings false. I dabble with writing. My approach is haphazard and unfocused. What I write generally lacks solid foundational research. I write around the edges. I still stutter over the words, “I am a writer.”  Hardly passionate behavior.

So what the heck am I passionate about?

I’m passionate about reading. Since about the seventh grade, I’ve felt driven to read. I can’t stand the absence of printed material. I read everywhere…literally. I’d rather read email that listen to a friend on the phone or in person. I sometimes avoid social activities just so I can stay home and read. Trouble is, what I read at 8 AM has evaporated by 9 AM. I’m hopeless. I can avidly read a 500 page book and two days after putting it away, I can’t remember the author, the title, or the characters in the book. I can’t even blame this on age, because I’ve been like this…well, since the seventh grade.

I’m sort of passionate about skiing. At least, while I’m in the boots with the boards strapped on my feet, I’m wholly passionate about skiing. As I kid, I was pretty meek. I never experienced an adrenaline rush till I was about 17. Ever since then, I’ve been drawn to anything that scares the pants off me. That’s what prompted me to venture into white water kayaking for a few years. The adrenaline rush of flying down a mountain at 30-40 mph is the most exquisite experience in the world. Perhaps I should more honestly say that I am passionate about adrenaline.

I’m rather passionate about food.  Which is a real problem considering how much time I spend in this silly chair, staring out the window. I love exotic flavors and textures of food. I have yet to find an ethnic cuisine that I don’t like. Yea, I’m passionate about food.

I am passionate about life. Now that sounds downright contradictory to what I’ve just been saying. But I do wake up each morning stupefied with pleasure to be alive, curious about what the day will bring, and delighted at being able to watch the sun slowly unfold the mystery of the night sky. Every single day is a gift filled with unknown possibilities. It is up to me to recognize and take advantage of those possibilities.

What are you passionate about? I repeat Lenore’s question. It will be interesting to see the varied tapestry of what it is that drives us individually.