A friend of mine recently told me that he thought I needed less passion in my life. More peace, serenity and contentment. Less intensity – less passion about the state of the world. We were talking about my desire to find work in an NGO that was working towards something I felt was worthwhile. He was concerned that, rather than find fulfilment through working towards something valuable, I would instead encounter too many bitter, dissatisfied people who believed the world was doomed. That my passion would become corrosive.
I have since started volunteering at Oxfam, and, as I did when volunteering for the Greens, and for ACF, I have found myself surrounded by cheerful, friendly and supportive people who believe in what they do. People who don’t sit around whinging about the state of the world, but set out to make a positive contribution to the issues they care about.

It stands to reason – if you believed the world was doomed, why would you lift a finger to save it? People who choose to work for NGOs like Oxfam, environmental lobby groups like ACF, and grass roots political parties like the Greens, have usually made a conscious choice to work towards a better world. Rather than bitter, twisted world-haters, these are the people who see a problem and try to fix it. This requires a positive “I can contribute” mentality that is actually the antithesis of bitterness.

Passion, though, can go either way. And without a positive outlet, it is true that mine was in danger of swamping me. Everywhere you look there is a humanitarian or environmental crisis too dreadful to contemplate. And if contemplation is all you do, passion can easily become just as bitter and corrosive as my friend feared.

The trick, I think, is to harness it. Like solar energy untapped, passion can burn. But set up a solar panel and it can power your house. I have chosen to use my passion to power my life. To fuel my quest to be part of the solution.

I look around my life and see no end of things to stress about. We should be vegetarian to lower our carbon footprint. We have one car for a 4 person family, but really we could use the car much less. We have an air conditioner – we rarely use it, but on those 43 degree days it is hard to resist. We use central heating, and our open plan home makes it difficult to shut off all of the rooms we’re not using at any one time. Our house is much larger than it needs to be – we have friends overseas living in much smaller homes with much larger families, and it’s a poor excuse to say “but that’s the Australian dream.”

But none of us is perfect. We do what we can when we can, and with a young family some days just getting out of bed is a medal-worthy achievement. Volunteering is not a drain on my resources, nor a corrosive influence. Instead it is an energising, motivating experience. It brings me closer to the person I would like to be. It is bringing more passion to my life, not less, but it is a heady, intoxicating enthusiasm for life. No doubt in time the initial rush will fade, but I have already proven to my satisfaction that I need more passion in my life, not less.