It really makes a difference when I’m working with someone who’s passionate about what they do. They’re carrying a beautiful little secret that they just can’t wait to share. Even when I don’t care about this thing that they’re so passionate about, I can relate to the sheer enthusiasm. It’s instructive to me. It grabs my attention and helps me want to participate. Passionate people point me in the direction of something I haven’t checked out, something that may expand my horizon.
Passion is like a vehicle that carries us from thing to thing and from place to place. Fantasy is the fuel. For me, a fantasy is a dream loaded with things that I hold in the highest regard. It’s the stuff I really care about that is often just outside my grasp.
You have to have permission to think about that stuff, and often our society denies us that permission. Countless times I’ve asked students what their dreams are, only to have them offer a rehearsed reality check because they have been trained to expect only what seems feasible. Dream repression is so pervasive in our society that we tend to self-deny—ultimately we only dream about the stuff that’s socially sanctioned and safe enough to speak about without fear of disdain or rebuke. For this New Year, I hope we all find the freedom to dream big.
For those of us looking for encouragement, I’m happy to share my strategy:
I look at my body and I see evolution, miracles of science, biology and other mysteries, combined and presented as a mass of meat and bones occupied by a mysterious quantity of psychic energy that happens to have an opinion about what it thinks. When I look at this planet, I can’t explain why it generates oxygen for me but there’s my oxygen. Moreover there’s my water and my food as well.
I saw Hubble pictures of our planet—a blue marble floating on a beam of light. Are those pictures real?! Is it possible that we’re a blue marble traveling at high speeds in the void around a ball of flame? So what happened then? Did the universe produce so much wonder that it needed to create witnesses? Am I one of those witnesses?
Passion is fuelled by fantasy, which is fuelled by love and ultimately the wisdom of tolerance. Contrary to the opinion of my hero Neil DeGrasse Tyson, I believe that the universe produced us and is collaborating for our success, and that we are granted the option to fail. I believe good and bad are born in human judgment. For me, love is when you agree with the universe. The universe is simply perfect—balanced and wonderful. It’s science that looks like art.
We’re basically made of all the same stuff as the stars and planets, so when you look in the mirror, you’re looking at the universe expressing itself in consciousness. There’s something beautiful and profoundly poetic about that. How can we have a dim view?
Some people may say that’s blind optimism, given the carnage and brutality out there in the world. But I don’t think I’m optimistic—I’m think I’m just observant. We humans only go off the rails when we don’t remember to align ourselves with the universe that holds us. I have faith that we can do it.