January 28, 2016

Strive and Seek, But Never Be Satisfied

Strive and Seek, But Never Be Satisfied

Passion and Hunger
I've been thinking about the difference between passion and hunger. On the face of it the difference seems obvious. In their ordinary senses, passion is erotic and hunger is dietary. Scarcely comparable, I know.

But beyond the obvious, their meanings become blurred. We can be hungry for more than food — for success, for change, for victory. Likewise, we can be passionate about art, adventure, or work. Can't we even be hungry for love and passionate about food? So what indeed is the difference?

Here's my simple definitions: hunger is a drive for satisfaction; passion is a pleasure in the pursuit itself. To put it another way, hunger is occupied with achieving its end, passion is preoccupied with the experience itself.

Hunger is nothing to glorify. At best it's an inconvenience, an urge to satisfy; at worst it's a tragedy. Whether it's our belly, our mind, or our heart that gnaws at us, starvation is agonizing. It's a hollowness that we strive to fill. In every case, hunger is something to overcome.

Take the example of travel. If I'm hungry to travel it's not the roaming I long for but the end goal. The goal isn't necessarily a destination, but often just the fact of getting away from home. Most of us are familiar with the sentiment, "I need to get away." That's hunger. Once I get away I'm satisfied regardless of where I end up or what I do there.

But if I'm passionate about travel, it means I love discovering new places. Then again, it's not simply the places themselves, but the act of discovery that attracts me. It's not the destinations but quite literally the journey that excites my passion.

Diving Into Passion
To be sure, passion isn't about looking for greener pastures. Contentment is an essential part of passion and not, as it might seem, equivalent to a satisfied appetite. One of my passions is the wilderness. When I'm there I take the greatest pleasure — I'm genuinely content — in being where I am. But in the midst of my contentment I also feel an excitement to reach the next valley, to climb the next mountain, and to catch a glimpse of the next pristine lake. 'The next thing' is valueless without a full appreciation for what's present before me. Without being fully present I run the risk of reaching whatever's next and failing to see it because my attention is trained on the horizon beyond. Without contentment, ambition is utterly stupid. My passion to journey onward can't take away from the awe of my present place, it can only add to it because contained within that pleasure is something more — inspiration.

This is what sets passion and contentment apart from hunger and satisfaction. When we're hungry, the best we can hope for is to be filled. When we're passionate we can hope for an abounding present and an open future before us. The future and our discovery of the unknown can never be satisfied. That's what's so thrilling. It's something to cultivate. If you reach your destination on a trip, if you're satisfied with a relationship, if your professional drive plateaus, or if your love of life is sated, then you've lost your passion and stalled in the economy of hunger and satisfaction. That's not always a bad thing because our hunger is legitimate, but it's not enough to make life rich and beautiful.

I would encourage you to never be satisfied with life. Instead, make an effort to be content, taking the greatest pleasure in what you've been given and what you've achieved, and then allow it to inspire your passion to accomplish more, to explore further, and to draw closer to others. The beauty of passion is that it continually enriches the present while yet remaining an eternal pursuit.