With not an inch of space to walk and the stench of a locker room emanating from the boy’s room, kitchen counters sticky from lemonade making and gently asking for two weeks daily for the sugar spilled on the kitchen table to be picked up before we were visited by ants, I finally flipped out. Granted, the sugar spills were daily in a new location and the sticky countertop was wherever the lemonade had made that day, at 17 you’d think he would pick stuff up right? Wrong!
My 17 year-old said, “You act as if we are doing this TO YOU. We aren’t. We simply don’t think about it. My teacher says you should only do what you are passionate about. Nothing else. I am trying to live that.”
I said, “Yeah well your teacher lies because he can’t say everything he does he is passionate about.”
“Yes he can, he loves teaching!!”
“He may love teaching but does he love getting to work on time, having meetings, meeting deadlines, and all that goes with that? Your dad loves preaching but he hates parts of his job. He does them because they allow him to pursue his passion. With everything you do, there are parts of it that aren’t so great but you do them to get to do what you want.”
“NO! He really doesn’t do anything he doesn’t want to do.”
“Whatever! Do you have groceries in this house?”
“Have you had them here for the last 10 years?”
“Well, I hate grocery shopping so what if I just stop doing that? Since it isn’t my passion?”
The eyes begin to look desperately for the next argument to prove his point.
“You see, you want more responsibility but you aren’t handling what you’ve been given. Until I see that you are taking care of this stuff, I can’t give you more.”
Yes, sometimes we look more like the Roseanne Barr Show than the average family.
There’s a bigger issue here. You see, we’ve created this monster, and it’s not just in our home, it’s in your home as well, and in many other homes. It’s the American spirit that has brought us to this mess. It’s this ideal that I was created to only do what I want to do and we should all live out our lives happy and entitled. Dishes should magically clean themselves and beds should come with a remote control that pull the sheets up. Work should be an afterthought or for the idiots who haven’t figured out what they were created to do.
And just to be clear here, I am not asking for perfection. I’m fine with closing the door to the kids rooms, but when the smell starts creeping down the stairs or when the dirty stinky shirt is on the kid who needs a ride in my car, it’s then that I have an issue.
There are things we do, not because we want to, but because we are part of a community and that requires the good of the whole, not the one. We need to get back to center and it starts in our home first.
2 thoughts on “But What If I Don’t Wanna?”
To be sure, there are always things we don’t like to do. This idea that we will find the “One” with whom we can share our lives and be in love and never have anything but bliss is sold wholesale through every storyline in pop movies. The other side of the coin is rarely explored except in indy films—and even they focus on the despair more than reality.
We preach a righteousness that no one can live up to, a lifestyle that is pie in the sky and a host of other ideals which are meant to be goals rather than immediate outcomes. I’ve come to believe that the father of lies has played a rather nasty hand in this one. All of these ideas are excellent taken in context, but outside of the reality we live in they become a means for self-esteem issues, depression and discouragement.
I went through the teachings that came out of the 80s artist movement where they spoke about art, passion and ministry as if it were a right rather than a work in progress. I’ve listened to hours of people preaching the gospel of accomplishment and success to no avail. The truth is uglier than we want to believe. Ecclesiastes makes it clear that the current paradigm guarantees that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favor to the learned, but time and chance happen to them all. Yet Proverbs also claims that diligence brings success.
How we measure that success is based on the teachings we adhere to. Jesus told His follower they would be rejected for their passion, lose their possessions and suffer for His kingdom. Those rewards don’t match up with much of the current mentality of Western Christianity. My brother, Tracy, uses a sarcastic phrase “All this and heaven too!” to speak about those who believe everyone should be well off and profitable if they follow Christ, which flies in the face of John 15-17.
But, we keep dishing out this stuff as if it were gospel. The result is people who believe they should be served and only focus on what they want over the things which obligate all of us. In other words—we’ve become a narcissistic. No wonder our kids struggle to find a real place in the world with all that’s being touted as valuable in the media.
Good word and don’t let your boy get away with this nonsense… 😉
I’ve been mulling this over since I read it yesterday. I serve in a community strong in artists — in reality, I can say that we have one of, if not the most, artistic community of faith in the country, perhaps even the world. This is evidenced by our programs, dances, and the fact that three of five teams that competed for the $1m prize from Doritos serve at our church.
That said, I hear the words “passion,” “artistry” and “talent” used quite frequently. What I’m discovering is that, in our conversations, our use of these words possess completely different meanings than those same words in other conversations. We explore, we study, we grapple with the tensions and the meanings of these words, and we see how this plays out in our faith journey.
Let’s take a look at the first word that jumped out at me — passion. In your story, the lemonade and sugar were left on the counter for days, and the chores were not done because it was not the boy’s “passion.” Further, he lives in squalor and stench because order and organization are not his “passion.”
But what is passion? When you look at the root of the word, it’s latin for “suffering.” In short, it is an ungovernable emotion or idea which all other ideas become servant to. An obsession, a force that drives everything in tireless diligence to its furtherance. With regards to some of my friends, it’s a two-year film project where they pour their money, efforts, countless nights, relationships and thoughts into while creating. With friends serving overseas, it’s walking away from family, friends and comfort to live in areas without Western comforts, such as electricity, safety and regular, healthy food — all while teaching teenagers work-ethic and job skills in impoverished nations. Or it’s working two jobs, overnights, weekends and any hours you can get just to pay the bills, but riding two buses, a subway and walking miles to make an audition for a commercial.
The key is diligence. Patience. Dedication. Living as a functional member of society, all while advancing that passion to the next step.
“Artistry” and passion go hand-in-hand. Artistry is the quality of work from an “artist,” someone who is skilled, experienced and knowledgable. Artists create commentary on themselves, their states of mind, the state of society and how everything is viewed, whether it’s through their music, their film, their business or their teaching. Whether someone views life as positive or negative, fundamentally strong or broken, full of pain or full of triumph, is expressed in their actions. For the “artist,” they choose to express themselves through their skill (their “artistry”) — and the volume and resonance of their voice is amplified by how skilled and diligently they pursued their passion.
Talent is where the confusion lies. Scott Adams says, “Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.” Just because someone has a natural endowment, or talent, at creating something does not make them good, or artistic. And just because you have a talent does not make you passionate; likewise, just because you have passion does not make you talented. Otherwise, American Idol’s tryouts would not draw the highest ratings of the season.
Calvin Coolidge once said, “Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan, ‘press on’ has solved, and always will solve, the problems of the human race.”
In your boy’s case, perhaps he’s passionate about living lazily and dressing it up as artistic freedom. That doesn’t mean everyone must be subjected to his “driving force.”