We’ve all heard it by now, the familiar exhortaion: Do What You Love.
I know I’ve heard that call. And I try to live it, at least a little everyday. But there is more to this statement than 30 minute exercises and side-projects, no matter how productive and rewarding these sessions and products can be. Underneath there is a mandate to go full time into the path of bliss, as Joseph Campbell put it.
It’s the path that belongs to you, to your passions, the one that will naturally claim you just as you naturally claim it. It’s your dharma.
For me, a daily hurdle comes in deciding what constitutes “doing”. My passion is writing. I want to write. So I write. But, more specifically, my deeper passion is fiction writing.
Does it count then as doing what I love if I write non-fiction for content sites? Or do I have to write fiction before I can say to myself I am following my dharma?
These questions are more-or-less baldly semantic, I know. They nag at me anyway. Because I suppose I would like to have a simple inspirational story too. I would like to be able to say, “one day I realized I was unhappy at my job, so I quit and started writing my novel and I haven’t looked back since. I am happy. I am fulfilled.” I can’t really say that things have gone this way for me, yet I have quit the unfulfilling job. I have written several novels. But I have looked back, not with regret, but with wonder that so much has changed for the better and still the challenges persist, still the call to “Do What You Love” hangs on the air like a whip and a reproach.
I do not write full time. I could do more. Though there are a number of requirements on my time as a small business owner, I have no excuses for doing less than what I know is required of me if I am to create the art I feel I need to create – to be satisfied that I have achieved some modicum of completion, that I have done work.
Sharing these thoughts here, in this blog forum, is one way that I am trying to answer the call. (For similar reasons, I created/curated an online gallery project: Failure of Theory – because it occured to me as something to be done.) It’s a new way to answer the call, for me, that makes an attempt at raising hopes for ultimate success in bringing my current path into sync with the dharma path, the path of passion and deep identity. The focus here puts primacy in ideas first and results/returns at a distant second. It could be that I am laying bare one of my fundamental beliefs: the belief that ideas are important.
The method is not obvious. It doesn’t really even make sense. Because what I think I am doing is putting stuff out there, without clear expectation of results, of impact, of return of any kind…it’s like a zen act. Like a lesson from the Dhamapada.
Actually, this is not only like a lesson from the Dhamapada. It is a lesson from the Buddhist work. Work with a pure heart, without thought of results. Working for the sake of work is also working for the sake of your soul, in a way.
The “Do What You Love” mantra is a secularizing of the Buddhist and Hindu doctrines that speak to self-love, self-knowledge, and purity of spirit.
To focus on “simply doing”, ignoring the questions of how to make money, whether or not this form of writing or that form of art is my true form is one way to attempt to enact this spiritual precept then.
The fact that a spiritual mantra coincides with the secular one and also coincides with the reason for writing this essay – the fact can be drawn down to an effort to remove the nimbus of cloudy complexities from the basic desire to create and to pursue self-expression.
I am not writing this to practice Buddhism or Hinduism or even to “Do What I Love”. I am writing this and posting it to my blogthing because I don’t want to think about any of it. I expect only to feel a tiny inner resonance acknowledging the act of posting an essay, that few will read, which touched on a few diffuse ideas and did not change them at all but, quite plainly, put them on the page to be seen, shapes like words that somehow escape those forms and in doing so haunt the mental space that we call ideology.