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Passion, Desires and Birds

I love birds. They're like cousins to me. That’s why when my dog, Jango, killed a bird in our backyard, I could not look him in the eye for a week. I do look up often however, during park walks or hikes, to admire our little winged friends. But despite my reverence for birds, I was shocked to read in the New York Times (A Treasure in a Tree) that people spend an estimated $40 Billion a year on birdwatching in the United States.

My friend, Alex, keeps things simple. He just sets up a birdfeeder in his back patio, and the birds come to his St. Louis home. They come one after the other, in varying colors, sizes and attitudes. Alex often takes pictures and posts on Twitter and Instagram. But most entrenched birdwatchers seek more than the Alex groove.

Cardinal, goldfinch, bluebird - Photos by Alex Calder @alexcalderSTL @alexjcalder

According to the New York Times, some bird enthusiasts purchase binoculars, cameras, relevant gear like vests and hats. They even spend money on travel, as their bird adventures can take them to other states and countries. I could easily act appalled that people should spend so much money on birdwatching, when this world is saturated with hunger and need. Couldn’t the bird hobbyists spend their money to help humans? Some of the birdwatchers featured in the New York Times article had jobs and professions that likely netted contributions to society. It’s hard for me to judge these folks, because they intently carved out a slice of their lives and finances to grip a passion. I love it when people embrace their passions. So, I’m going to leave our birdwatchers alone.

Their passion got me thinking about...well, passion.

A favorite author, Mark Nepo, wrote something that stuck to me years ago. He described the difference between passion and desire. Nepo attests that passion brings you closer to the core of who you are. While desire stalls you, divides you, slows you from becoming you completely.

Finches - photo by Alex Calder @alexcalderSTL

Unpeeling some of my desires here. I have desires for hot fudge sundaes with slivers of pecans, fried chicken with mac ‘n cheese from Dulans Soul Kitchen, and tres leches cakes and muffins. And, yes, a couple of other things come to mind. I do see how some of my “desires” could detour me. For example, if I’m trying to embrace a healthy lifestyle, maybe a super rich chocolate sundae could stall me and divide my healthy goal.

Now looking at some personal passions. I have a passion for family, reading, writing, the outdoors and spirituality. I’m very passionate about justice, fairness, and compassion. Yes, I can easily see how my passions remind me of who I am; they bring me closer to my core.

What excites me about passions is that they vary from person to person. Individuals can have passion for music, architecture, cooking, cars, philanthropy, or even for a sports team. For example, take a sports team like the Dodgers. I have family and friends, whose life calendar is highly swayed by the Dodger game schedule. My Goddaughter and her husband celebrated their honeymoon by traveling to different Dodger games across the country. After the Dodgers World Series win in 2020, reported that fans broke records purchasing team merchandise. There's even a blue house in East Los Angeles that's been described as a mammoth Dodger Blue art gallery. Local Angelenos can't miss it.

I imagine that the lines between passion and desire can sometimes get blurry. One thing that comes to mind is the term "golf widow". It's a satirical label given to women whose husbands spend excessive amount of time on the golf course. Perhaps their partners are merely enjoying a passion? I do imagine that most professional golf players began their journey with a passion for the game. What about people who have passion for wine, might that line get blurry as well? What about foodies; might their passion for good food impact other aspects of their lives? Yes, it can get tricky.

I suggest an interesting exercise. Grab a piece of paper and divide it into two columns: passions and desires. Start listing them. I suspect that the items under the "passions" category will likely tell you more about YOU.

Why not be passionate about YOU? I leave you with a fun quote that made its way to me:

"When I began to have a mad, passionate love affair with my own life, the rest fell perfectly into place."-Katrina Mayer

Rose-breasted grosbeak, yellow-throated warbler, tufted titmouse - by Alex Calder


Bird photos provided by Alex Calder - Twitter @alexcalderSTL, Instagram @alexjcalder

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Loved this take on passion vs desire. I’ve always grappled with the concept of desire. For example, I can desire to be rich but I can achieve/fulfill this desire through excelling in a career which I am passionate about. However, I can see how unhealthy this desire can be and how it can manifest into poor choices which go against my passion and “slows me from becoming me completely”. I guess all we can do is be passionate about ourselves and let everything else fall into place. A beautiful message Ms. Ordaz!

Rosa Valle-Lopez
Rosa Valle-Lopez
Oct 20, 2021
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Thanks again for your kind and elaborate feedback. I think passions can make us feel good about who we are.

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