Contrived Origins

So I tried freehanding this post. About a week ago, I thought of an idea that, although I hope not, will earn me the reputation of a cynic.

There may be, now I repeat this is off my head, three sources of happiness that may be legitimate. That is, at least some people recognize each source: success, friendship and family, fulfiling a passion (which is closely related to success) and quenching our natural desires (wanting to eat, drink, sleep). This post offers some insight into the legitimacy of passion.

So why are some people disposed toward an activity or "passion", and is that disposition actually meaningful?

The former question can be intuitively explained: our environment usually cultivates our disposition. The son of a coach -- Pete Maverich is the classic example -- quickly attaches himself to the source of his father's profession. The businessman's son, having grown up in a business household, easily assumes the reins of his family business.

 But, of course, we have stories of rebels: The aspiring musician, whose scientific family rejects the arts, in turn rejects his family's beliefs to pursue his "passion"; the aspiring comedian, whose mining town values solidarity and communalism, travels to the city. Even in these cases, our environment shapes  our disposition. Maybe, as an example, the monotony of a rebel's live, in conjunction with his relationship to his family, drives the rebel to pursue a passion.

Readers will say this assessment is useless. Environment contributes, even for steadfast adherents of self-determinism, significantly to a person's character and his or her life. Readers may also raise a more important point. So what if environment shapes a person's passion? Does it mean, just because person X could have found person Y's passion were he in Y's position, that passion is any less powerful and inspiring. This is all well and true, but I have - and I am freehanding based on my observations - another observation. I think at this point I will earn the reputation I fear.

 We become -- and this echoes Cal Newport -- passionate only after first becoming good at some activity. Why? Because passion is predicated upon superiority. Our biological system, which still responds to the environment as if we lived 100,000 years ago (when we needed our system to behave in a survivalistic manner) compels us to value superiority. But instead of physical or sexual prowess, we've settled upon the endless development of the self as evidence of our prowess.

We value passion, because we want to feel superior. The moment we cease to feel superior, our passion is compromised. Because our interaction with others is dynamic, meaning we will inevitably and constantly encounter someone more capable than us, passion is often useless. There may be no purpose, thus, to our quest for superiority.

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