“I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.”
– Albert Einstein Born 3.14 in 1879. Photo of Albert at five years old.
If we scan the human social landscape for what we could loosely describe as “the adult world”, we see so few of us who have retained our passion. Somewhere on the journey from childhood to physical maturity many of us have lost the passion and unbridled curiosity of our youth. Our once white hot passion to discover and explore transitions over time to a smoldering ember. Some of us hiccup, belch and scream as we slowly fade to incurious ashes in our twenties and thirties. Those of us that have replaced wide eyed wonder with mind numbing routines and stoic mediocrity might look out at the few that retained their passion in life and wonder; ”What special talent do they have?”
Albert Einstein once said; “I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.” He didn’t think of himself as smarter, just more persistent. It is true that the things that keep the fires of passion stoked in us change over the years. Candy bars and swing sets give way to more adult appropriate tastes… perhaps sports, hobbies or social groups. While breast milk and warm embraces satisfy our needs as infants, as we mature our needs diversify just as our body does. If we do not find and embrace these new forms of nourishment, such as the need for significance – to provide something of nourishing value in the context of the larger community – we slowly starve to a shadow of our former self. Like a tree in the shadows, our potential is thwarted by the shade. If we fail to shift from an appropriately self centered locus of identity of our youth to the larger community based locus of life as we mature, our once vibrant canvas can become drab, painted over with the dull tones of suffocating mediocrity.
Those of us drowning in the waters of ritual – who draw our last breath as we sink beneath the surface of the excruciatingly ordinary, have lost the meaning that can only live by way of a steady diet that feeds a passionate curiosity. To realize our potential we must learn to actively participate in feeding our hungers in the context of the changing nutritional requirements as we mature. This includes our need to be of value, as well as to receive value, in the context of the community we live in, and depend on for life.
Reality is a big place. As living creatures that must nourish and protect that nourishing economy of relationships, we face many challenges that require bravery, focus, discipline and sacrifice. The upside of these otherwise daunting challenges is that they afford us the opportunity to engage in purposeful and meaningful activities. Engaging in life is not optional, bur there is a difference between fruitful activities and those that are not. We can count the seeds in a apple, but we cannot count the apples in a seed if they are cultivated to fruition. A passive approach to life where we accept what happens to us rather than making things happen is not an effective strategy to be satisfied, much less realize our full potential. Without a passionate and active interest in life, including our own nature, and the willingness to translate that understanding into something of value and meaning in the context of the community that we need to live, we wither like a plant without enough water. For this to happen we must cling to our passion and curiosity as if our life depends on it, because… it does.