Life Lessons

An After St. Patrick’s Day Treat

The artist brings something into the world that didn’t exist before and he does it without destroying something else.

~ John Updike (1932 –)

JUST HOURS AGO, I stumbled upon the music of a young violinist, Lindsey Stirling while browsing through YouTube trying to find that piece of music that would elevate my soul unto my own level of sacredness, paraphrasing psychologist Jonathan Haidt from a TED talk he gave on called Religion, Evolution, and the Ecstasy of Self-Transcendence. And how I even found one of Stirling’s pieces online is in fact a story in itself.

Therefore, this column will be a story within a story, or “story-ception”, as I’d like to call it.

So let’s go back to the very beginning of how I stumbled upon Stirling in the first place.

I was re-watching another YouTube video by a younger classmate of mine, Lucy Shen—who is a high school junior this year—perform a cover of Call Me Maybe (originally performed by Carly Rae Jepson), and right there in the middle of the Related Videos section was a screenshot of a girl holding what appeared to be a violin and a banner that read “Electric Daily Violin – Lindsey Stirling.”

Intrigued by the title—and way more intrigued with its over 2 million views—I clicked on the icon and was redirected to the following video here:

Within seconds of hearing Lindsey play, the tune simply reminded me of a cross between classical Chinese music (probably because of the association between Asians and the musical stereotypes that occasionally run through my mind) and that of an Irish jig—or in this case, a more revamped, contemporary one. Nevertheless this piece is something much more out of the ordinary I should say, because although there are numerous violinists out there these days, Lindsey’s style and choreography attracted my attention and the way she will occasionally kick her legs in the air at certain moments both resemble Irish folk dancing and doing the cancan.

But I am very impressed with the fact that she can almost seemingly strut across the scenery and play the violin simultaneously—and thinking in the back of my mind how much practice she must have done in order to achieve this.

After all, devoting long periods of time to practicing a passion doesn’t just require skill. It also requires that tedious, painstaking effort to perfect an art.

TO BE HAPPY, to be successful, to have a meaningful life, having a passion is mandatory. A passionless life is an empty life.

Yet, “passion” may be the most widely misunderstood and incorrectly used English word. It doesn’t mean what most people think it means.

This becomes a huge quality-of-life problem when kids grow up without a passion because they don’t understand what passions are (and aren’t).

One thing they often aren’t is enjoyable. I enjoy eating and sleeping and reading on the beach. I enjoy watching football and basketball and going to the movies. But these aren’t passions. They’re pleasures, and pleasures don’t require effort. Passions do.

A lot of time, we hate our passions. Even though they can provide massive joy, they are equally capable of causing searing pain.

A passion is an intense emotion, but not always an enjoyable emotion. Passion can be anger and suffering. The Passion of Christ was not about Jesus having a good time.

The aggravated artist who punches his imperfect painting and stuffs it into the trash is passionate about his work. So is the angry ballerina who slumps in front of the mirror, tears of passion trickling down her cheeks. And don’t forget the dedicated accountant, working alone, late into the night, determined to make the balance sheet balance.

The lesson every kid desperately needs to know is that sometimes — oftentimes — the thing they love the most is the same thing they’ll hate the most. That if what they think is a passion really is a passion, they should have a yin/yang, love/hate relationship with it.

~ Jaime Richards, an excerpt from Understanding the Meaning of Passion (2010)

Most things we will do in life will involve a constant pain/pleasure relationship, as Jaime clearly states here—things like going to school, paying the bills, computing taxes, doing laundry, even raising children (on behalf of all the parents out there). It will never be easy, but it must be done. “That’s passion”, according to Jaime.

And it’s also a passion, according to me as well.

I’m not only motivated by people like Lindsey Stirling by what she does. I’m motivated to get up and tap to her beat every time I hear her music.

And even though I just missed St. Patrick’s Day, Electric Daisy Violin is a soul-moving instrumental and melody that can speak life into hearts and souls—and as for me, I find my soul-moving passion in writing columns and hoping that by doing so, other people will be enlightened and will have eye-opening experiences when they read not only my words, but essentially the words of all six billion people on this planet.

And I also seek to continue to tell one little piece of a story which actually fits into a gigantic jigsaw puzzle of what humanity is like. In other words, one little piece of my story, a human story.

Be inspired, be motivated, be productive, but most of all, you must “be true, be true, be true” (The Scarlet Letter).

Now get out there and “see the blue” (Richards). Go out there and find a passion.

Happy belated St. Patty’s Day too.

~ A Fellow Columnist, Josh Chen.

5 comments on “An After St. Patrick’s Day Treat

  1. hey Josh,
    I like this article, man. unfortunately, i don’t have the time to critique it like i usually do, that’ll have to wait until after finals. but that’ll be the first thing i do after i get home Friday, ok?


  2. Felix Chow

    Hey Josh,

    As you well know, I’m on a month-long hiatus. Heck, it could even last longer. But anyway, I absolutely agree with you. Of course, that’s not saying much. If you’re passionate about something, passion comes with effort. If you aren’t willing to put in the effort, then why do it? Why do you spread your ideologies if you aren’t wholehearted and dedicated about it? I’ve mentioned this before like you’ve preached me your religious views, and I’ll mention it again. You have inspired me to view life from a different perspective. You’re passionate about your beliefs, and I’m passionate about spreading the word and helping others the way you like to help others and be helped yourself. I know about your disabilities. I know about the hardships you’ve been through (at least the ones you’ve told me about). I know how passionate you are in Transcendentalism. And since HDT and RWE, I’ve never seen anyone so passionate about their beliefs. Okay, maybe I have… but still.

    At this point in life and in my high school career, I’m trying out literally all sorts of things. I have hobbies that range from singing and playing guitar to a future hobby of paranormal research. Since watching “Ghost Adventures”, a ghost hunting show on the Travel Channel hosted by lead investigator Zak Bagans, I’ve been even more convinced that the existence of the afterlife is even more probable. Reading Bagans’ first book, Dark World: Into the Shadows…, just made me even more fascinated and inspired me to look deeper into the world of paranormal research myself. Obviously, like almost every ideology in life, the paranormal research is one that raises more questions than answers. And I’m determined in every which way to help seek these answers and contribute to the paranormal community. However, I’m also trying to wrap my head into other things such as C Programming. Right now, I’m still trying to find myself. Like I told you in our conversation last night on Facebook, I have felt indecisive enough that I can’t seem to trust myself to do anything. I want to conquer these emotions, but… it’s tough. But meanwhile, a part of me says “Don’t worry about it. Just take things easy and slowly. Don’t bang your head against the wall and create more stress.” We all wish life is subliminal, that we could eat every piece of chocolate in the world that exists. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. But I’m not about to back down. And neither should anyone else.

    Being the die-hard Sharks fan you and I know I am, I would also like to take this to ice hockey. It’s damn well hard enough to ice skate if you don’t know how to ice skate properly. That’s why ice hockey itself is such a dangerous, yet thrilling sport. Each Sharks game I watch (with the exception of the times when they seem to play with no energy at all), I find myself at the edge of my seat when the score is tied in either the third period or OT (Overtime). The momentum swing can go back and forth, and in a tie game, especially when each team is playing tight-D, any shot on goal can be the game winner. That’s why, especially at this time of the year with the Playoffs just 13 games away (or so), it really is a battle. Sharks fans saw that in the contest against the Nashville Predators, but even more so against the Detroit Red Wings – a team whom we’ve faced for multiple Playoff seasons already and knocked out. It’s really a battle of contention and who really wants the game more.

    A perfect example of a passionate hockey player is Sharks Captain Joe Thornton, or Jumbo as we Sharks fans, his team mates and the Sharks’ broadcasting and analysis crew calls him sometimes. Having played his 1000th game against the New Jersey Devils on the road earlier in the first half of the season when we were doing quite well, no other Sharks player has shown so much passion and love for the game. During the match-up against the Predators, everyone on that San Jose team knew what was on the line, but it was Jumbo who wanted to give the Sharks that extra point in the Standings the most (a win is two points). And he showed it when he deposited the puck into empty net from a deflected slap shot from a team mate.

    Ice hockey can be very torturous, especially if you’re a die-hard fan of a particular team. Passionate fans will know how hard it is to play a full-on sixty minute hockey game, while those who criticize their own team repeatedly even when they themselves don’t know how much grueling work it is to keep your balance and battle along the boards for the puck. I’m a passionate fan, and just trying to ice skate myself at the Sharks Ice facility in Fremont made me realize just hard tough it is to be an NHL player.


  3. SO. AMAZING. I love her motion and enthusiasm and creativity and theatricality and scene/set and matching clothing and- yes. She’s got the PASSION. Right now, power doesn’t matter. If you’ve got the PASSION, you’ve got the POWER.
    And I really, REALLY want that kind of passion. It really is sad how many people don’t have the life-changing experience of having a passion and retaining a passion.
    But know how to get it back?

    Get out there. And do stuff.

    Cheers! ❤


  4. Hey Josh, great article, man! First, I’d like to say, thanks for introducing me to a great YouTuber. this is really impressive, and I gotta agree with you, the tune definitely sounds like some kind of Chinese/Irish fusion, and I really like it. Sounds a lot like a piece from a soundtrack of an RPG game, which is really cool. but this is about your article, not the music. I especially like the quote that you used from Mr Richards. I remember that one time, near the end of the year, I think, when he told us that passion wasn’t something you enjoyed doing. It was something that you NEED to do, something that would cause pain, but also happiness. and I think that you’ve found yours with writing. of course, I think we’ve all known that for a while, but it’s true. I’ve seen you write great articles, very painful and personal ones, alongside more light-hearted ones like these. you have that power, and you have the passion. good luck, man, as always!


  5. Gurnaj Johal

    Seriously good column, I saw the video to almost the same exact way as you. Dude you are very deep and I like the accountant example because that resembles me when I am doing late night homework and also the ballerina because I have done sports for a couple of years so I know how it feels like. I cannot believe I read this so long ago…I did see the video though and it is truly talent what she has. I think that she is great at what she does even though it is out of most pop culture and thus is revolutionizing entertainment dramatically. Keep continuing your columns.


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