Permaculture, or why I don’t like talking about my “passion.”

We all know that the key to a happy successful fulfilling abundant properous amazing life is to “find your passion“, right? It’s one of the personal development industry’s central tenets, along with “stay positive” and “fake it until you make it.” There are a few dissenters, but they seem to underscore the ubiquity of the “passion” dogma – in a market saturated with passion-peddlars, downplaying passion is a way to stand out.

I’m not really in this to make a case for or against passion. Enthusiasm and energy for what you do is a huge asset, but of course it doesn’t replace, y’know, work. But it’s treated like a sine qua non of “success”, that unless and until you “find your passion” you’re spinning your wheels, and you better sit yourself down with a pot of coffee and a yellow legal pad, and write out everything you’ve ever done or could conceive of doing until the Gods of Meaningful Work reach down with their Heavenly Highlighter and show you Your Passion, and then you quit your job and ride that train until the end of days. Give it a shot, it might work for you.

Now, say you’re like me. I use the stumble-upon method of self-discovery. I do the next thing, and I keep doing the next thing until I find cool stuff that takes me to a new and unexpected next thing, and then the next, and so on. I do know where I want to end up (yeah, I may disclose in a future post, and don’t say I didn’t warn you) but it’s so big and crazy that I can’t draw a rational plan between here and there, so I’m trying it this way unless and until I stumble upon a better way. It’s a slow irrational method, and so far it’s been giving me irrationally good results slowly enough for me to metabolize them. But it gave me my “passion”, no matter how assiduously I try to ignore or deny it.

My passion, (deep breath), is Permaculture. I KNOW it is. Everything I aspire to points in that direction, but I’ve found it strangely difficult to own it. Hell, I even know I should give a bit of an explanation of what Permaculture is and why I’m in love with it, but I find it inexplicably challenging. The fiction is that we “discover our passion” then explode into the world in an all-singing, all-dancing whilrwind of productive joy. Not my experience.

So how could I conceivably simultaneously hold Permaculture so close to my heart and have such a hard time talking about it?

Well, when I put it that way, it doesn’t seem like such a mystery. It’s hard to talk about precisely BECAUSE it’s so close to my heart. I can handle a rejection of me personally. Believe me, I’m well practiced. But a rejection of the ideas that I hold dear – that we have an obligation to provide for human needs in ways that strengthen natural systems and promote human happiness, and that we CAN do it, that we know all we need to to get started, and that we ARE doing it – is a scarier prospect. I don’t expect everyone to be on board, and that’s ok, but somehow I’m afraid that if I say it wrong, I’ll make enemies.

Of course, when I write it out like that, and reread it, it’s absurd on its face. I have the choice of accepting its absurdity and moving on, and trying to argue with myself that of course it “seems” absurd, but it’s really for real actually a really big deal.

I know which I prefer. Stay tuned.


  1. Tan

    What about passionS. I’m tired of the idea that there is one thing out there that people are supposed to and meant to do. There’s so much everyone can achieve. I plan to pursue all my passions, in perhaps just an ‘absurd’ a manner as you. But with to do lists ;)

  2. Beth

    Oh I’m with both of you…let multiple passions abound! The thought of finding one thing and sticking with it for the rest of my life, even if I like it, is daunting. And boring. And scary, even. Let there always be room for us to explore the current passion of our day and then go on to the next one.

    And kudos for declaring yours!!

    • Ryan

      Beth, you’re right on. Our world has always required us to be flexible, but that’ll be truer of our generation than any I living memory. Over investment in one direction or career path or skill is risky, and more mortally, no fun! (I’d meant to write “importantly”, but autocorrect preferred “mortally”. Thanks autocorrect!)

      If the things I’m working on now all pan out, even if half do, my résumé-defying past will just get more résumé defying.

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