Sunday, 18 November 2012

Never Curb Your Enthusiasm

In “One Minute Wisdom” Anthony de Mello wrote

“To the woman who complained that riches hadn’t made her happy the Master said, ‘You speak as if luxury and comfort were ingredients of happiness; whereas all you need to be really happy, my dear, is something to be enthusiastic about’”

All you need is something to be enthusiastic about!

I received two very different phone calls on Monday evening from two people I hold very dear to my heart. The first was from someone really suffering with life, someone who had lost all the zest all the spirit from themselves. It was a real cry for help. They just could not face the world that day, they’d had enough. I listened; I really listened, as hard as it was to hear someone you love in such a desolate state. I empathised too as I had been in that very same place myself about 11 years ago. By the end of the conversation things seemed a little better, my loved one put down the phone in hope.

A little later I received a phone call from another friend, who was just full of it. He was full of the spirit of life, of love, of God. He was saying I know you are busy but in half an hour a new series of “Sorry I haven’t got a clue” is starting and Jack Dee (A very British Larry David) is the new compare, it will be really funny etc...It was just wonderful to hear this. Not because of what he was telling me, but just to hear the enthusiasm in his voice. Only eighteen months previously this friend had given up, he had had enough. He was suicidal and seriously so. That’s what brought such joy to my heart, to hear someone who had gone from the depths of his own private hell to such enthusiasm about a programme on radio 4.

Those two conversations once again showed to me how life, just like the sherbet lemons I love, can be so bitter sweet. It also once again showed that there is always hope, no matter how despairing things can seem.

I was naturally enthusiastic as a child, I think most children are. I use to more or less wet myself when going on new adventures or just fairground rides. The first time I flew I was shaking so much I could hardly get on the plane. I wasn’t shaking with fear, it was pure excitement and it was flowing out of me. I also remember how excited my brother use to get too. Every year as children we would go on holiday to Scarborough and one year, actually it was 1981 and just after Ian Botham’s defeat of the Australian’s at Headingley. We were staying at the same hotel as the Yorkshire cricket team; nothing could have been more exciting for two boys from Yorkshire. We had great fun with them. I was taught how to swim by Chris Old’s glamorous wife and how to drink whiskey and lemonade by Chris Old and David Bairstow. My brother though was more interested in getting his bat signed. He’d got the whole team to sign it, except for one, our greatest hero, Geoffrey Boycott.  One morning he saw him sat reading his newspaper and he plucked up the courage to ask him for his signature “Mr Boycott, Mr Boycott will you please sign my cricket bat.” There was no answer. So he asked him again “Mr Boycott, Mr Boycott will you please sign my cricket bat,” still no answer. Finally he asked him a third time “Mr Boycott, Mr Boycott, will you please sign my cricket bat.” This time he looked up ever so slightly and peered over his paper and said “I heard you the first time” and held out his hand and signed the bat and then returned to his paper. He said nothing more. This destroyed my brother; it completely curbed his enthusiasm for quite some time.

It is so easy to destroy the enthusiasm in others, especially if they are a little on the fragile side. That said we can also help to build enthusiasm in others too. Enthusiasm and cynicism are just as infectious as each other. I think this autumn we have been going through a cynical cycle. Some are probably relieved to witness this. For some folk the enthusiasm and high spiritedness of the summer was probably a bit a too much. Maybe we need a bit of both; perhaps they balance one another out. “Maybe, maybe not”! Personally I do not agree in curbing anyone’s enthusiasm, we need more of it! There can never be too much enthusiasm!

Oh by the way enthusiasm is one of those words that have changed in meaning over time. The etymology of words is something I am getting increasingly enthusiastic about. It is amazing to me how many words have been reduced in meaning and impact as time as gone on. Enthusiasm is one of those words.

Enthusiasm comes from two Greek words “Theos” (meaning “God”) and “En” (which means “in”). The words put together create “En-theos-ism, which literally means “to be filled with God” or “to have God within”.

When we think of enthusiasm today we think of being thrilled or uncontrollably excited about something. Like the first time I flew in an aeroplane as a child and I was shaking with enthusiasm or when my brother discovered that we were staying in the same hotel as the Yorkshire cricket team. Enthusiasm in its truest sense is actually much more than this, it is one of those words that we have tried to tame and it has therefore been reduced in meaning. Enthusiasm has a deeper and much more sustained and longer lasting quality, than the current understanding we have of it. It has a truly deeply spiritual quality. It means to be filled with the great spirit of all life; it’s about being in touch with that highest quality of life already within us and all life; it means that we are able to live and express this quality in all that we do. This becomes infectious as we pass it on to others and it becomes manifest in our daily human actions. My friend, who called the other day, was bursting with it and yet just eighteen months earlier he had lost the will to live, life had become empty and meaningless, he had lost the taste for it.
Enthusiasm gives us is the ability to be fully engaged with all of life, whether that’s a radio program, the sunrise, a conversation with an old or new friend, a walk alone in the park or the hug of a loved one, or just simply settling down with a good book. Enthusiasm is a deeply spiritual quality that allows us to fully live in the richness that is life, in our time and place.

To be truly happy in life all we need is something to be enthusiastic about. This can allow and enable us to do great things and it can inspire others to do the same.

Margaret M Stevens tells a story of three bricklayers who were asked by a passing stranger what they were building? The first answered rather gruffly “I’m just laying bricks”, he didn’t even look up to acknowledge the person asking the question. The second did look up for a brief moment and simply said “I’m putting up a wall” and then carried on. The third put down his trowel and rose to his feet and with great enthusiasm and obvious pride said “I’m building a cathedral”.

“I’m building a cathedral”

A person overflowing with enthusiasm gives all that they have. They tend to hold nothing back. They can do great things and they can inspire others to do likewise. They give all that is in them to life and life tends to reward them in turn. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said “Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm. The way of life is beautiful; it is by abandonment.” Enthusiasm is about believing in life itself; it’s about being filled with life; with the spirit of life; it’s about knowing that God is in us. It is more than that though; it’s about expressing that in our lives and allowing it to spread throughout our world. The conversation I had with my friend on Monday certainly did that for me.

Enthusiasm can be infectious it can start to spread. In previous blogs I have written of my belief in the chaos theory of compassion. Well I believe that the same theory applies to enthusiasm. This can be infectious too. Last summer we were all lifted by the sporting spectacles throughout Britain, as my brother and I were by Botham and Willis’ heroics at that beloved cricketing cathedral of Headingly in 1981. This autumn we seem to have begun to slip back into cynicism once again as we have seen the negative side of humanity gain prominence. Both have power over us, both can live in and through us, but which one is it better to live by? Which one serves life? Well I for one want to live with enthusiasm and to share that with the world. If you like this is my religion.
In my view the purpose of the religious life is to discover ways to find and develop that natural enthusiasm at the core of our being and to share it with our world. You never know but that one phone call by my friend on Monday may lead to a tidal wave of enthusiasm all over this world. It certainly picked me up after a rather painful phone call had ended only minutes earlier.

I’d like to end this little chip of a blog by repeating a story I have shared before. I believe that it is definitely worth repeating. This is the story of “Two Wolves”

An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. 

“A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.

“It’s a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil -  he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, ego and it makes me cynical about life.” He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, faith and it fills me with enthusiasm for life. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”

The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

So I say never curb your enthusiasm, feed it and let that flavour flood out of you.

Life needs it.

Below is one of my favourite YouTube clips


  1. Thank you so much for your enthusiasm. The Etymology of words is something I am also getting increasingly enthusiastic about. Thank you for sharing this and your interesting contributions to this page. God bless you and keep you, may He smile upon you.

  2. Thank you Paul...thanks for your page and to John for inviting me there...the etymology of words is an increasing fascination for me. What really stirs me is how we have reduce their meaning over time...God bless and stay free my friend

  3. Comment e:mailed to me from my brother...

    I would just like to say how much I enjoyed the minister's blog, which I have just read for the first time.

    I have a clear memory of going into a lift and asking a young bloke to sign my cricket bat. He said to me "do you know who I am ?" to which I replied "Yes, you are Bill Athey." He smiled good naturedly and signed my bat 'Paul Jarvis' and I happily followed his career well into the nineties.

    Thankyou for reminding me to look for my enthusiasm, and, hey, I dream of the ocean because I used to live on it.

    Best wishes, Otis.