In my brother’s apartment, I sit and let myself be hypnotized by his fluid fingers moving along his Les Paul. He makes the strings sing in a style cultivated by years of hard work and a lifetime of listening to Jimi and The Beatles. Once he’s well into the jam session, I look up and see Jack smiling down at his guitar, completely immersed in the music. At Howard, I sit in a dorm room crowded with incoming and current freshmen. The conversation flows from a regional discussion on music taste to the party later that night, from social issues to everyone’s plan for the future. With each plan comes the means by which that person is currently pursuing their overall goal; when each person describes his or her goals, passion dances in the speaker’s eyes. Back in my own home, I listen to my close friend who has dreams of being a published author. He speaks excitedly, going over points twice and three times, revising the style and plot right before my eyes. The story gains depth and nuance with each passing day, and I can slowly start to see the novel’s framework forming. In each of these situations, one constant is present: true ardor. Ardor for music, ardor for career aspirations, ardor for writing. An enthusiasm and love for life.
In a recent talk with my brother, we hashed over the importance of having a passion in life. My view went like this: Life as a whole is a grand distraction from death. Some people will work themselves to death for accomplishments that are largely unimportant when examined closely, and will push away those close to them in the process. Others revert to drug abuse and recidivism, sometimes even suicide, because of their despair with life. In my view, people are saved from both of these fates by their passions. These passions include the love one feels for his family and friends. Passions are also one’s life work, whether that’s writing novels, making music, teaching Kindergarten, or being a voice for social change. To this, my brother told me he agreed. He pointed to the song Row, Row, Row Your Boat, a classic in bedtime lullabies, and told me the song was commonly thought to be an analogy for life. If you need a refresher, the lyrics go like this:
Row, row, row your boat,
Gently down the stream.
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily,
Life is but a dream.
Upon him saying this, I thought for a second, and I’d have to agree with this analogy. The author assumes, however, that you already have your boat. I would contend that the passions that I spoke of earlier are ‘your boat,’ with each passion making up a part of one’s boat. The entire trip down the stream can be ruined by rowing too hard though. The key word in the second line is ‘gently.’ If one rows down the stream aggressively, the whole third line of the song would change. For many people, the third line’s sole word is often ‘angrily’ instead of ‘merrily’ simply because of overexertion and overwork. If one can find his passions, and concurrently realize the need for balance between work and rest in life, his existence will be rich in contentedness and merriment, and life will be ‘but a dream.’ But first, you must find your boat.