In this world of hyper-specialization, something is being lost. The brilliance of our humanity is being dimmed as we get narrower and narrower in our focus. Our ability to think globally is one of the most wonderful parts of being human and the intellectual rewards are immeasurable, and key to our growth as people and as a species.
But, as importantly, allowing ourselves to gratify all our passions – Australian film, Chinese cooking, the history of infectious disease – we become more whole as humans, giving us additional ways of connecting with people and shifting our relationships with them to make our interactions fulfilling, nurturing and healing.
Imagine a chef. He’s not just a chef, but a brilliant one. His subtle layering of flavors, passion for top-quality ingredients, preoccupation with all aspects of food – he is a creative genius. But the genius of cooking is an earthy one; taste, texture, color, even sound, are part of the visceral experience of cooking. In addition, anyone who has worked in a commercial kitchen can tell you that it is a hot, sweaty pit of hard work and rough language, populated by a cast of questionable characters. But this chef has a passion for something else. He has a fascination with astronomy; he even has a large telescope that he goes home to late at night after the kitchen is closed. Astronomy is about everything cooking is not; it is, for practical purposes, intangible, abstract and cerebral. There are those who would say that the time this guy spends reading about astronomy and staring at points of light that are light-years away is a distraction from his real work. But the real deal is that by accessing these other parts of himself, he gives them opportunity to grow, becoming an entire person.
The result: he creates dishes that respond to many points of view, food that speaks to his customers on a heart level. That’s the real reason why he’s a great chef.
Michelangelo (architect, engineer, sculptor, painter) and Leonardo da Vinci (scientist, mathematician, inventor, anatomist, painter, sculptor, architect, botanist, musician) were, and still are, held up as archetypal geniuses who were given the latitude to express their multiplicity of interests and skills. Shoot forward to the 20th century, and we see that Richard Feynman (theoretical physicist, bongo player, safe cracker) and J. Robert Oppenheimer (nuclear physicist, theoretical astronomer, political activist) were loudly and frequently criticized for the fact that they let their other interests “distract” them from their “important” work. Yet, these are the people who capture and hold our attention over time.
Thinking is three-dimensional. The more places you can stand and look at a situation, problem or relationship, the more you can see. Additional perspectives give additional insight, and additional insight promotes more creative problem solving. One could speculate that we actually become more brilliant by developing our passions.
Human relationships are three-dimensional too. The more of these parts of ourselves that are expressed, the more places you can stand in relationship to others. We have a much greater ability to access the parts of ourselves that are like the other person. This is the opportunity for the heart connection, the place that allows us to be completely present with others, letting go of preconceptions and judgments, and just be with each other.
Being three-dimensional gives voice to parts of our intellect that are crying out to be heard. Someone who is being shackled will eventually either die or rebel. Shackle the sub-selves, and we become less of who we were or who we could be. The regret that results from that suppression produces someone who is bitter, depressed and intolerant, setting up a vicious circle of misery. Not only are they no longer contributing as effectively intellectually, but are precipitating a cascading negative effect throughout the matrix of humanity.
The more of our sub-selves we can allow to exist without judgment, the more we can extend that to our relationship with others. We need not have a deep, intimate relationship with everyone we meet; we only need to allow them to be most completely themselves. We are far better equipped to do so if we give ourselves the same consideration.