Bernard ordered the salad, something I had never before seen him do. He prefers what he calls real food.
"What's up?" I asked.
"My cholesterol," he said. "I have to be careful now about what I eat."
"Well, then you'll want to know that you have an alfafa sprout caught on your chin," I said, trying to be helpful.
"Very funny," he glared, taking a swip at it, but merely moving it higher up his face to a point at which it looked like it was coming out of his ear.
"My friend Lyle has quit his job," I announced, trying not to stare at his green earring.
"He's following his gift. Determined that if he does what he loves the money will follow.”
“Do what you love and the money will follow? People are still saying that? Peter Senge had a great response to that. He said that he didn’t know if it was true that if you do what you love the money would follow. He said all you can be sure of is that if you do what you love, you’ll love what you do. Money? Maybe.”
“But don’t you think that there is a lot to that – to this notion of following your bliss?”
“No. You might save yourself but whether or not you make money that is a separate thing. Plus, his gift may not even be ready to carry that kind of burden.”
“First things first. You challenge the notion of money coming from your gift.”
“Well, you might take great joy from cultivating your gift, but that’s no guarantee that anyone else will. If you want money, you find out what other people want and you provide it at a price lower than what they'd pay but more than it cost you. It’s as simple and as difficult as that. But it is not clear to me how you do that automatically by simply pursuing your own gift.”
“So you don’t think that it is important to develop your own potential? To pursue your bliss?”
“I didn’t say that. I just said that it might not make you any money. If you develop your gift, you’ll save yourself or find yourself or whatever it is that people do. You become you. Galileo worked as a tutor to the Medici. He was a private science teacher to kids.” Bernard got a faraway look in his eyes, and I knew that some history was coming. “Of course, these kids grew up to become popes and, however unwittingly, helped to usher in the Protestant Revolution, probably because learning from Galileo had made them tone deaf to how revolutionary most Europeans would find the new ideas of that time. Galileo had infected their world view and they didn't even know it. But that’s a different story. The point is, he became Galileo because he pursued his bliss, followed his passion. And he even helped to transform Europe – it was his writing that ushered in the very term revolution. But he wasn’t able to devote himself to that. He had to tutor rich people’s kids. But if he had only tutored, he would not have been Galileo – not in any important or substantive sense. The same is true for anyone who ignores their passion, who ignores what they know to be true.”
“So, what about the issue of the gift not being ready to carry the burden of you?
“A gift is like a child – it takes years to reach a state of self-sufficiency, much less reach a stage at which it can support you. You give birth to a child and you don’t expect it to suddenly look after you – you don’t even expect it to do chores around the house. It eats and soils itself and cries if you don’t hold it. That seems to me to be a pretty good description of a gift – particularly in its early stage.”
“So what do you do?”
“What you would do with a child. You nurture the gift. And you don’t panic the poor thing, like your friend Lyle has done, by looking it in the eye and saying to the poor little, thumb-sucking toddler, 'you’re going to support me now.'”
“You wait until what stage? How do you know when you can rely on your gift for support?”
“It’s a gift. It is just given to you. You just nurture it and give it back out into the void. It’s a gift. It may never pay you back. Not every child houses his parents in their old age.”
“So why give in to it at all?”
“How else are you going to define yourself? By sitcoms and bowling leagues? Gucci shoes? This is how you rescue you from anonymity.”
“But if it doesn’t make you famous, you’re still anonymous.”
“Not from yourself, you twit. This is about learning who you are. Follow your gift and when you get to where it leads you, you’ll find you. Right there. At the end of the trail.”
“Do what you love and you’ll become?”
“You know,” Bernard said, masticating madly on a mouthful of vegetable fiber, “some days I think there might just be hope for you.”
"If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you."
- Jesus, quoted in the Gospel of Thomas