Source of Interest

September 7, 2008 | Leave a Comment

Category: Auto-Biography

A dentist that collects scrimshaw, antique carved whale teeth, seems to have a reasonable passion, considering his profession.  A politician that loves reading books on history in his spare time makes sense.  What is interesting me at this moment is how, where and when interests surface that bear no obvious relationship to the life in which the passion interrupts.

It interests me what interests me.  I’m curious about what makes us curious.

On Tuesday, eating my cereal, preparing to drive the mile to where my doctor practices to get my yearly check-up a year late, the phone rang.

(If a doctor only practices, what kind of medical person engages in the actual main event of healing?)

The person at the other end said he was Paul Jean’s stepfather.  I thought it was Paul goofing because the Georgia accent sounded like his.

“Hi, Paul! How are you doing?” I excitedly greeted the caller.  I hadn’t talked with Paul since last summer.

“No, this is not Paul.  This is Paul’s stepfather.  Paul died a month ago.  We just now found you through the web.”

Paul was my first close friend.  We were inseparable starting in sixth grade through junior high.  Grown up, we would visit each other every few years.  My father’s wife had passed the week before.  Driving to the doctor, I was feeling mortal.

I feel mortal a lot.  I know this feeling has some connection to creativity.  It may have something to do with where the ideas come from that enamor me.  I suspect that there is a high correlation between the experience of mortality and availability for creative inspiration.  I wonder if there are patterns in what interests us and our relationship with the doorways.

Those doorways, birth and death, swing open and reveal content that is compelling.  Sitting close to the death door is an anxiety-producing experience.  The door sways open and part of me disappears.  Very disconcerting.

Hanging around the birth door is also often an anxiety-producing experience.  You know, that womb/tomb thing.

I’ve been catapulted into fascination on more than one occasion in my life.  I’ve been obsessed with (in the order of their appearance) dinosaurs, comics, maps, lucid dreaming, neuro-linguistic programming, hypnosis, dragons, evolutionary theory, autism and political activism.

At the point that a deeply distressing, long battle for custody of my son finally ended, creative energies flowed through me, not unlike water through a flash flood canyon.  I developed a card/board game based on maps.  I fell head first into an infatuation with dragons.  I designed a line of almost 30 puppets.  I drew.

Looking for patterns, I experienced that the most intense, creative period of my life directly followed the death of someone I felt particularly close to, my maternal grandmother (see  Then, about three months later, a six-week stretch of nonstop, unremitting anxiety abruptly halted and transformed into another, even more powerful creative surge that lasted months.

It seems the cessation of something long unpleasant can propel a person into a creative space.  Familiarity with death can open creative doors.  Anxiety can be a creative catapult.  In an earlier entry, I noted how depression can act as precursor to invention.  I’ve also noted that the release of long repressed rage can transform into creative acts.

I’m not seeing any patterns here except that powerful emotion can rend the fabric of convention, allowing new experiences to emerge.

I see no clue as to the relationship between the content of what feels compelling and the time, place and person that the passion comes to.  In my own experience, there is a lineage connecting those things I’ve been attracted to, deep commonalities of structure that those passions share.  Why any particular facet faces outward at any time seems to have something to do with environmental prompts.  There is some kind of square dance going on between my unconscious and the environment as I do-si-do amongst all the attractive-concept ladies and what they represent.

Perhaps a study of people’s passions in connection to life experiences, birth, death, strong emotions and outside influences, would be study that would engage someone’s passion.


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