I'm a Hummingbird
The author of a blog I follow, A Daily Rhythm, recently included the transcription of a talk give by Elizabeth Gilbert as part one of a passion versus curiosity series.
Just a few months ago I went to an author talk sponsored by an independent book store here in Asheville, NC that featured Gilbert. My attention span can often be limited, but I read the entire transcript, and I'm glad that I did. One section in particular resonated with me:
I like the advise Liz Gilbert gave in her talk:
I thought about all the people I know and love who are still very much on the search, who are still really unsure about what their purpose is, who aren’t totally certain that they have one, central burning passion, and who are still moving from this to that, trying A, trying B, trying C. Some of these people whom I know and love, are in their 40s, 50s, 60s, and beyond, and they’re still trying to figure out what they’re going to be when they grow up… does that sound like anybody in here? You know that feeling, right? And, I know that some of them are really at ease with the shape of their journey, but I know –and I should have seen all of this, long ago– that many of them are not. They carry that anxiety about the fact that, in a culture that fetishizes passion, and fetishizes certainty, they are uncertain, and they are not totally sure that they have this great, burning purpose, and they’re not totally sure what their legacy is going to be, and it makes them feel stressed.I can relate to this. Now that I'm retired, I often feel I should find a new purpose...find someway to make a difference. I do get anxious sometimes wondering where my niche is, or if I even have one. There's a quote by Aristotle that has stuck with me for some time, "Your true vocation lies where your talents and the needs of the word cross." I had a vision that after I retired, I'd discover this crossroads. But I don't feel I've gotten any closer even though I've been retired over 6 months now.
I like the advise Liz Gilbert gave in her talk:
“Listen, do yourself a great service, do yourself a great kindness, and just for now, just take the word ‘passion’ off the table. Just relieve yourself of that. Because there’s so much pressure around that. Just take it off the table. Just forget about it. Just let it go. And where that was, instead of that anxiety, and that urgency, and that panic about chasing a passion that you’re not even feeling, do something that’s a lot easier, a lot simpler: Just follow your curiosity. Because curiosity is such a gentler, kinder, more welcoming, more humane instinct than passion. And it’s so much more accessible.
And the reason I’m saying all this is because, in contrast to the demands, the urgency, the greed, the mania that can be associated with passion, curiosity doesn’t do that to you. Curiosity will never strip your life bare. Curiosity will never make outrageous demands upon you. Curiosity will never take. Curiosity only does one thing, and that is to give. And what it gives you are clues, on the incredible scavenger hunt of your life. Every single day. And, curiosity is accessible every single day, because it’s so mild, and the stakes are so low. Even on the worst days, there’s something you can find that you’re a tiny little bit interested in. No matter how small it is, no matter how nothing it seems, no matter how it’s not going to change the world, no matter how you’re not going to mortgage your house to go do it. There’s something in your life, always, on every day, that you’re a little bit curious about. That is the trail of breadcrumbs, the scavenger hunt, the channel that God feeds the little clues for on the incredible scavenger hunt of your specific, incredible, and precious life. And the only thing that curiosity will ever ask of you is that you turn your head a quarter of an inch — you bother to turn your head a quarter of an inch — and just look a little closer at one of those clues. And it might be nothing. You might follow it for a few inches and think, Oh, no, that wasn’t a thing. And that’s fine, because you didn’t burn your whole life to go do it. You just looked, like, “Am I into…? No, I guess I’m not into that”. And you let it go. It might be nothing. And then, the next time, there’s another clue, and that… You might just go for a really long time doing that. And it might lead you nowhere, or this might happen. I’ve seen it happen. Because this is the flight of the natural-born hummingbird.
Hummingbirds spend their lives doing it very differently. They move from tree to tree, from flower to flower, from field to field, trying this, trying that. And two things happen: They create incredibly rich, compelling lives for themselves. And they also end up cross-pollinating the world. That is the service that you do, if you are a Hummingbird person. Because you bring an idea from there, to over here, where you learn something else, and you weave it in, and then you take it here to the next thing you do, so that your perspective ends up keeping the entire culture aerated and mixed up and open to the new and the fresh. And, if that is how you are constructed by your Divine Maker, then that is how we need you to be. You just keep doing that. That is what the path is that you’re supposed to lead.So for now I'm going follow Liz's advise and work on being content to be a hummingbird. I'll continue to explore different interests, and who knows, I just might find something that turns out to be what I'm passionate about! (And I'll look forward to part 2 of the passion versus curiosity session on A Daily Rhythm next week!)