14 June 2006

[philosophy] Unexpected Masters of Teaching Passion

We rather famously and smugly say we don't watch much television. With the broadcast fare across the vast wasteland getting of slenderer worth as time goes on there's just not much reason to turn it on, and when it comes to satellite or cable I just don't care for the feeling of having to watch the idiot box or I'm out money.

Some shows do get under our skins, however. One is the Fox series Hell's Kitchen, which just started it's second run. What it is that originally attracted me I'm not quite sure–perhaps it's the joy of watching a group of people willingly submit to the abuse of Gordon Ramsay, gleefully watching as all these people have thier "I'm all that" beat right out of them, and not having to feel guilty about it because they let themselves right in for this abuse.

They wanted it, baby, they got it. I won't be crying for them

But, as I've watched the show, I've begun to identify a vibe coming not only from Chef Ramsay but also from the contestants that make it the farthest. One might call it spirit, or maybe drive, or maybe ambition, or maybe just "knowing what one wants".

There's a better word for it: passion.

It's taken me a long time to know what passion is, and that it's more than just a convenient (and somewhat inexact) synonym for intensity. After I realized what passion meant (for this I thank Pariah Burke) it was a short leap to understand that without a passion for something, life is just really just a tedious passage from sunrise to sunset, about 22,000 times, depending on your lifestyle and genetic makeup.

Another way to think of passion is a fire that drives.

Take Chef Ramsay, for instance. To say he loves what he does (being a world-class chef, that is, not being, as my old Dad might have said, a "sunuvabitch"), is really being half-hearted about it. He has passion to prepare the finest food imaginable. It's the fire that drives him. This is why he's so demanding, and why he has such a short fuse; I imagine that, from his point of view, if you're there to be on his team, then you have to have the same committment, the same eye on the same goal, uncompromisingly. If you're not skilled enough, if you're faking it just to look good or get admired or get famous, then you're going to get the blunt end of his rage when you, inevitably, let him down.

I get the idea that he's not really there to be famous (although doubtlessly prosperity is its own reward–he is rather wealthy, and an international television star besides). Rather the fame and fortune came because he does what he does the way he does it. The passion made the fame possible–not the other way round. And it's this passion that makes him such a fascinating person to watch.

In as much as he's earned Michelin's three stars for his efforts, we'd have to admit that results, in this case, speak for themselves.

Personally my passion is now design. And a function of this view is that now I can't see myself without striving to do something in design. What successes I've had have been the greatest personal high I've ever known, and that high is worth repeating no matter how well one gets paid for it (naturally, I'm hoping for prosperity too).

And people doing things passionately are–no other way to say it–fun to watch. It's almost as though thier high from being in the zone is contageous. Already, on Hell's Kitchen, it's becoming astoundingly obvious that, whether or not they know it, some are there to act out thier passion, and others are there so, down the road, they can say "I was on a television show once," and get out thier discs and show people. Hell, maybe that's not so bad, after all–how many of us can say that? Some are striving for the prize and thier passion and the best is already coming out in some of them, and that too is fun to watch.

Impassioned people show us what we're like at our best. They teach by example; that just a little passion for something in your life–even if it's nothing that will ever make you rich or famous–elevates even the most mundane life.

Learn passion, and life takes on a certain color and depth that it didn't have before.

This is why I admire Pariah Burke, and why I admire Gordon Ramsay. This is why I prattle on about logo design and map design.

Now if I can only get people to acknowledge my overall genius...well, nobody said it would be completely easy.

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Alan DeWitt said...

If by some chance you're watching this and have not yet read Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain, you really need to go find that book. He's another guy with passion for cooking (or for food at any rate) and he also can spin a very decent tale out of his life as a chef.

Samuel John Klein said...

You're absolutely right, Alan. I've been meaning to do just that actually; your reminding me means I'll be moving that up on the list of things to read.

Alan DeWitt said...

You know, it just occured to me that the phrase "decent tale" is misleading. Please let me clarify by saying that it is a well-crafted and entertaining tale, but it certainly is not free of material unsuitable for minors or the easily offended.

There. Now my conscience is clear. :-)

Samuel John Klein Portlandiensis said...

Fair enough, Alan.

Actually, from what I've heard, it's one of the reasons to read the book!

It's going on hold at multcolib as we speak.