Here’s what I learned last week: trees are really, really cool. And important.
One of my favorite things about the local university is a series in which faculty members talk informally about books they’ve written. I attended the inaugural event for potential networking purposes and anticipated dull, dry, academic subject matter. Instead, I have been enthralled by Michigan farm houses, baseball in Taiwan, and urban trees of California, at least two of which are subjects I wouldn’t have touched with a twenty-foot pole, never mind a ten-foot one.
For a professor to find the time to write a book between teaching, grading, office hours, and multiple committee meetings, she must be passionate about the subject matter. I realized after the second talk that any time you put someone in a comfy chair, give her a cup of coffee, and invite her to have a conversation about what inspires her, you’re going to get something really good.
As with most things I learn, this is not news. Joseph Campbell’s “Follow your bliss” has been printed on everything from coffee cups to bumper stickers. Campbell has his own explanation of why to follow this advice. I think the reason is simple: because it’s one of the only ways to be infectious in a good way.
I like trees. I even consciously spend time with them, but if I wrote a book about the urban trees of California, or any trees for that matter, it would probably lack zest. The professor who gave the talk loves trees, delights in trees, knows the intimate details that make each one a unique source of wonder. His book inspires.
We don’t always get to spend as much time as we want doing the things we’re passionate about. Only a lucky few work for pay in their preferred area, and time gets consumed by life’s more mundane tasks. As a friend of mine says, “Adults do a lot of filing.” It’s also easy to get distracted, think our passion will not interest others, or simply forget the excitement of doing what we love because we don’t see that excitement modeled often enough.
If I, who fell asleep during the fourth inning at Wrigley Field, can be fascinated by baseball, your expression of your passion will capture someone, probably many someones. Practice it. We need more wonder in this world.
Note: In case you’re interested, the series is Cal Poly Authors.