The well-known anthropologist of the mid–twentieth century, Joseph Campbell, who became quite popularised in recent times, was once asked what was the one piece of advice he would give to someone setting out in life. His reply was simple: “Follow your bliss!” Regretfully, a good deal of Campbell’s work has been commandeered by exponents in New Age Spirituality, and this little saying “Follow your bliss” has got interpreted at the service of a kind of self-enhancement where the self is the arbiter of all that is right. But what Campbell was really getting at was that our vocation in life is known through that which gives us a sense of life, of enthusiasm, of purpose and wholeness. By this little saying he was urging his readers to uncover the deepest desire within their hearts and to allow that desire to be the basis for the journey ahead of them. He was asking Where is the passion of your heart? because what we are most deeply passionate about is where the future is represented.
This was also echoed by another writer, the Presbyterian William Buechner who observed “By and large a good rule for finding out is this: the kind of work God usually calls you to is the kind of work (a) that you need most to do and (b) that the world most needs to have done. . . . The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”
Jesus would put it very similarly: “where your treasure is there will your heart be also.” Jesus’ own words invite us to reflect on what is the treasure of our life? Where is the passion of our life, the point about which we become energised and excited, the point though which we begin to feel the surge of life, and through which the hope of fresh possibility begins to course? The passion of our hearts is the oil of our lamps. It is our passion which keeps us alert, full of expectation, full of care.
It might be good for us to wonder from time to time: when people encounter us do they come away animated by our passion? Or do they come away wearied by our passivity. Passion need not be extroverted; but as one writer has put it, passion is present in the way that we demonstrate our care. Passion is in the naturalist observing some ordinary but rarely occurring event; passion is in the inventor who having devised an experiment decisive for his theory, waits with intensity; passion is in the musician awaiting his cue in the symphony surrounding him; passion is in the teacher who waits for the student to share her knowledge; passion is in the parent who does not lose interest in what their children are experiencing. Passion is present in the way we demonstrate our care.
Our passion is what keeps us awake in life, and therefore, in a mysterious way is also the place in our life connected with the Spirit of God. Of that passion, we can never have enough. Ours must be a passionate life; for the slumberous life is not of the gospel.
Let us pray that by living more consciously in our life according to what makes us personally and uniquely passionate, “God (might continue to) awaken us, and awaken within us.” (Leunig)
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