Of Passions and Professions

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So, my friend who happens to be a computer engineer by education, a musician by passion took a plunge into the field of liberal arts because he wanted to ‘explore his interests’ further, before a boring 9-5 coding job took him down. In fact, he resigned from a comfortable, well paying job with a coveted banking company only because he thought it wasn’t ‘gratifying enough’. This is a very dear friend of mine, and kudos to him to have taken a step that required of him to step out of the bounds of what, according to the societal standards, was a comfort zone.

 

There is a constant battle, with most of the people around me, except for that quintessential lot who had it all figured since forever. It’s still hard for me to understand if they really have everything figured or did they have to kill a part of themselves and ‘pretend’ like they have it all figured. Unfortunately, I can’t relate to them because I am not one among them. How our generation is in a lifelong dilemma to follow their passions and still lead a life of luxury. So the ‘generation’ I’m talking about excludes this lot; people who live a life of luxury, and still follow their passions.

 

Because everyone has a different definition for luxury, there is actually no absolute way to describe this, just perspectives. Somebody who has faced a lot of family problems as a kid, like abusive parent, illiteracy or unrelenting financial stresses, and overcomes such horrors with perseverance and self-belief might define a comfortable job and a happy family life as luxury. There are people who, unfortunately aren’t privileged enough to understand how beautifully variegated ‘passions’ in life can be; who never get a chance to join a dance class, or learn swimming after school. People who have seen their parents work hard to make ends meet and who, since very young age are exposed to the harsh realities of life. They devote their lives to breaking the vicious cycle of muddling through and strive hard to change their lives. These people make ‘building a life of luxury’ their passions.

Today we live in the era of ever-growing startup culture. We hear stories of college dropouts who build companies valued at multi-million dollars, of investment bankers who leave their jobs to run restaurants, or of common people who are just not satisfied with their professions and want to do something more fulfilling. They are either aware of what their passions are, or at least what they aren’t. These people hustle with grit towards following their passions, or towards finding their passions, until it makes their lives filled with luxuries. Take the example of Manish Malhotra, the famous Designer who has redefined the Indian Fashion Industry, has no formal training in Fashion. From a very young age, he was fond of styling and sketching, which made him begin his career as a costume stylist. He accumulated experience, never looked back, and today not only his life, but also his brand is luxurious. Such people face a lot of criticism for taking the road less traveled by, and that makes all the difference.

What if luxuries don’t really matter? What if passion is all that drives you? We have travelers, people who leave their highly paying jobs and invest their life savings in traveling all across the world, hiking through difficult terrains, facing life threatening challenges at every step. What if owning a jet plane isn’t as exciting as jumping off one when it is mid-air?

As I complete writing my article with a sense of fulfillment and a powerful realization that what if…what if happiness becomes a luxury in this chaotic life? What if it has become a luxury? What if then, the only way to lead a luxurious life is to chase and hold on to what you really feel passionate about? So… what do you really feel passionate about?

Sinking

 

Treading down a sylvan path one day,

Innocent face, happiness made my face gleam.

Unawares!

I heard a scream,

Of a girl, would you help me please?

 

Of course I would, guide me to your restraint!

And so she did, I reached that place

A quagmire! I exclaimed!

I couldn’t un-do what was done,

A woman of commitment was I made.

 

I found a rope and hurled towards her.

It’s not so easy, to set me free.

Not so easy,

There’s a deal (suffocation made her wheezy).

The trade goes this way,

For every gram of happiness you lose,

By an inch, I elevate.

 

About my decisions, I divulged my rues

But of no use!

A woman of word was I made.

She was bad at math,

Or so it seemed;

Even when I’d given her all of my happiness,

Out of the mire, she barely crept.

 

But I had come to a point

When I couldn’t pursue my journey further

(No happiness, no journey)

And so I rolled a joint,

I plunged into the swamp with her

We smoked and we drowned together.

Catching Hope

I saw her walk barefoot then disappear ‘round a turn

Followed her with the feeling like I almost got her.

But that was just a glimpse;

Of the spark which would create an eternal fire

I touched her, and in her reflection I could see an inch of my soul go blur.

A flash;

In that moment I knew this is not going to be easy

Another flash;

And I knew I could spend my life going after her.

But;

If I ran too fast, I could fall and break a bone.

If I ran too slowly, I could lose sight of her.

I could even experience days when I may feel no better than trash

This game could make my life slip thru fingers of time

like sand;

Yet, giving up shall always remain out of scope.

Let me introduce you to my friend Hope.

 

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When life gives you tunnels

Sometimes you have to go thru tunnels.. Long ones..

As you enter one, initially you cant see the light at the other end..

So as your feet move forward, time and again you want to turn around and follow the light coming from the end you entered from…

It might take some time and a good number of footsteps for you to see the light coming from the other end as well..

When you would be midway, you might not be able to see either of the two ends..

That’s the scariest point… That’s when just you have to keep moving..

Tunnels are dark and gloomy so call it a miracle if you find someone as you walk thru it.. Mostly you’ll have to walk alone…

But the concept of a tunnel is this.. There’s GOT to be light coming from the other end… That will be visible only after a while..And when you feel you’re closer to the other end.. You might not as well want to see the source of light behind you..

Even if you turn around and try to look for it, you wont find it cuz you would have left it far far behind..

The view on the other side of the tunnel would be enchanting..and you would be among the first ones to grab that feeling.. Cuz not many people go thru the tunnel..

The Mile

I’d walk the mile for you
On foot, maybe a knee bruised,
Until the morning sun warms us with its hue
I’d come flying to you sitting on a cloud of hope
But I swear; I’d walk the mile, just for you.

From everything I am to everything I’ll ever be,
I’ve been just ‘coz of you
Through patches dark and days of glee
And whenever nothing would ‘seem to work’
In a place aloof, we’d cherish each other’s company

When you feel you’re insufficient,
I’d be your abundance;
Of the approaching storm, if I’m prescient,
I wouldn’t protect you.
I’d say a prayer, giving you all my strength.

Today I sing this poem to myself,
That I’d walk the mile for you.

The darkness associated with creativity.

Creativity is usually linked to depression, mental disorders, anxiety and a battery of psychological problems. Hence, the ‘dark side of creativity. Is darkness is an outcome of creativity or is it the other way round? This question might sound trivial to some, but it sure does intrigue me. Let’s know what the biggie researchers have to say about this.

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Edvard Munch created one of the most recognized masterpieces in history. “The Scream”, which came to him in a sinister vision as he stood on the edges of Oslofjord.

“The sun began to set – suddenly the sky turned blood red,” he wrote. “I stood there trembling with anxiety – and I sensed an endless scream passing through nature.” Were his words. Munch experienced indispensably high levels of anxiety in his life but they were also the driving force behind his art. “My fear of life is necessary to me, as is my illness. They are indistinguishable from me, and their destruction would destroy my art.”

Munch was not the only one.

Vincent Van Gogh. was a major impressionist painter. Throughout his life, he vacilated between ‘genius’ and ‘madness’. He cut his ear after an altercation with one of his friends. In a letter to his brother Theo in 1888 he wrote: “I am unable to describe exactly what is the matter with me. Now and then there are horrible fits of anxiety, apparently without cause, or otherwise a feeling of emptiness and fatigue in the head… at times I have attacks of melancholy and of atrocious remorse.”

Studies have found that creative minds are associated with mood disorders. Charles Dickens suffered from clinical depression., along with Ernest Hemingway and Leo Tolstoy. The poetess Sylvia Plath took her own life by sticking her head into the microwave while her kids were fast asleep. Critics rightly pointed out that these studies focused on very specific groups of high-achievers, and that they relied on anecdotal evidence.

Using a registry of psychiatric patients, they tracked nearly 1.2 million Swedes and their relatives. The patients demonstrated conditions ranging from schizophrenia and depression to ADHD and anxiety syndromes.

They found that people working in creative fields, including dancers, photographers and authors, were 8% more likely to live with bipolar disorder. Writers were a staggering 121% more likely to suffer from the condition, and nearly 50% more likely to commit suicide than the general population.

They also found that people in creative professions were more likely to have relatives with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, anorexia and autism.

That is significant. Earlier studies on families have suggested that there could be an inherited trait that gives rise to both creativity and mental illness.

Some people may inherit a form of the trait that fosters creativity without the burden of mental illness, while others may inherit an amped-up version that stokes anxiety, depression and hallucinations.

There is anecdotal evidence supporting the connection. Albert Einstein’s son lived with schizophrenia, as did James Joyce’s daughter.

Keri Szaboles, a psychiatrist at Semmelweis University in Hungary, has studied the role genes may play more directly.

Szaboles gave 128 participants a creativity test followed by a blood test. He found that those who demonstrated the greatest creativity carried a gene associated with severe mental disorders.

Method in the madness?

Psychologists have established a link between mental illness and creativity, but they are still piecing together the mechanisms that underlie it.

In September neuroscientist Andreas Fink and his colleagues at the University of Graz in Austria published a study comparing the brains of creative people and people living with schizotypy.

Schizotypy is a less severe manifestation of schizophrenia. People with the condition may demonstrate odd beliefs (like a belief in aliens) or behavior (like wearing inappropriate clothes). Unlike schizophrenics, they do not have delusions and are not disconnected from reality.

Fink and his team recruited participants demonstrating low and high levels of schizotypy. They then slid them into a functional magnetic resonance imaging machine, and asked them to come up with novel ways of using every day objects. They later assessed the originality of their responses.

One of the greatest artists of all time, Michelangelo Buonarroti, is thought to have suffered from obsessive compulsive disorder. His frescoes and sculptures are masterful in its exquisite details, and he would reputedly shut himself away from the world for days at a time to create.

An interesting pattern emerged. Among those high in schizotypy and those who scored highest on originality, the right precuneus – a region of the brain involved in attention and focus – kept firing during idea generation. Normally this region deactivates during a complex task, which is thought to help a person focus.

Put more simply, the results suggest that creatives and those with high levels of schizotypy take in more information and are less able to ignore extraneous details. Their brain does not allow them to filter.

Scott Barry Kaufman, an American psychologist and writer for Scientific American, has summed up the results this way. “It seems that the key to creative cognition is opening up the flood gates and letting in as much information as possible,” he writes. “Because you never know: sometimes the most bizarre associations can turn into the most productively creative ideas.”

Clearly some people suffer for their art, and clearly some art stems from suffering. But it would be inaccurate to say that all creatives run the risk of mental illness.