Can your passion be measured in terms of money?

Do dollars dictate the worth of your calling? 

The other day I was telling my friend about my writing pursuits. I work part-time and write part-time. I get paid for my work as a teacher but as yet don't get any real money for writing. My friend, trying to be helpful, suggested that I try and write for magazines. I explained that I had done that before but didn't like the experience of having to alter my tone and style to fit their editorial guidelines. I prefer to write the way that is real to me. "So writing's not your passion," he said "because you don't want to make money out of it!"

It's interesting that in today's consumer society, things are judged monetarily. The worth of our time is gauged by how much we can earn. And because we find, actualise and express our very being through what we do each day, that too, it seems, is also given a monetary value. This includes our passion  the thing we care most about, the thing we wish to devote ourselves to, our life's work.

But I don't agree with this way of validating our deepest calling. Today's market is not the measure of true worth. To start with, many of the world's greatest writers, artists, thinkers didn't achieve prominence in their own time. These people didn't make money from their calling; they had to make a living and pursue their passion. Take Spinoza as an example. Open any book about the history of philosophy and there will be a chapter on him, yet he had to work as a lens grinder.

The other thing is that even if our life's work is unknown while we are alive and still remains unnoticed after our death, it doesn't make it worthless. There is so much truth in the Zen practice of focusing on the act of doing, not the result. In this sense, it doesn't matter what comes of our pursuits. It's more about what we put into them. Our life's work is that thing deep within that we are called towards, that intrinsic thirst we have for something. It could be writing, art, travel, humanitarian work. Whatever it is, it seems worth pursuing without judging its worth by the money that can be made from it. We may have to make a living doing something else to support our calling. But our "day job" doesn't define us, and our money in the bank is not imprinted with our identity. Our true self, our true calling transcends the economic system.

It's hard to remember this in a society governed by economics, but it is essential so that we don't get swallowed up in chasing other people's dreams. It's also important to remember if you are struggling to make a living from your passion. I'd be delighted to earn a living doing what I love, but I also don't want earning a living to get in the way of doing what I love.

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