This blog writer has been “silent” for a while, not for lack of material—God knows the drama of the Winter Olympics and the soap opera in the U.S Congress provide plenty of grist. (Could there be any two venues that provide a more perfect thesis and antithesis of inspiration?)
Rather I have been busy generating a dissertation on the topic of inspiration; in particular the kind of inspiration that is transmitted from one human being to another. Not through poetry, music, nature or spiritual experience, although these are certainly valid and effective means. Rather I’m interested in what gives one human being the capacity to inspire others to be better and bigger than they are, to reach a greater community, to build a legacy, or just to proactively find an opportunity to serve.
It isn’t clear to me at all what generates that capacity to inspire.
But in my ramblings, I did run into a philosopher, Ralph Ellis, who has written extensively on the subject. For those who like the abstractions, see “Love, Religion, and the Psychology of Inspiration,” in the Journal “Philosophy in the Contemporary World” 15:2 (Fall 2008). In the opening, Ellis states clearly that inspiration is “a fundamental emotional need, not merely as a derivative, optional feeling.” He then asserts that a lack of this basic emotion “results in depression.”
There are many ideas in Dr. Ellis’ article that I find preachy and flawed, but these assertions are not among them.
Who can avoid being internally excited by a young woman bruising her shin to the point of not being able to walk, and then re-generating herself to win a Gold Medal in the riskiest and most stressful of the alpine sports, the women’s downhill? Who can not be touched to the core by the commitment of the young luge driver who died in pursuit of his dream?
And who can help but be depressed at the lack of human capacity in our elected officials to think of anything other than their self-interest, their need to get elected again, and thereby avoid dealing with the real and sizeable problems of our Union?
Yesterday I ran across the newspapers I saved on Election Day of 2008, and on Inauguration Day in January of 2009. However we voted, we were instilled with a sense of hope and the potential for a new sense of contribution. For some, the feeling was a begrudging acknowledgement of the need for new beginnings.
Now, according to the pundits and polls, people in our country are disillusioned—only a memory of those heady and heartfelt days remains. The rhetoric of bi-partisanship has turned out to be only rhetoric…those who could have been heroes and heroines are nothing more than pretenders.
You’re right, Dr. Ellis. I’m depressed.
Thank God for the Olympics.