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Kirby: Don't let passion turn you into a bore
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The world is a mess. At any given moment, something (actually a lot of somethings) is horribly wrong on this planet and desperately needs fixing.

Immigration, whales, corruption, trade, drugs, finance, religion, radiation, abuse, guns, pollution, bigotry … hell, you can wear yourself out just coming up with a list of things to fret over.

I get tired just hearing about them. Every week I receive hundreds of requests for my help, interest, money and other support from various concerned organizations and individuals.

These "help save" messages are more than I have the inclination to bother with, so I don't think about them much. This sounds cold and it is. It has to be.

My lack of interest in many movements isn't a matter of not caring (although lots of times I don't) but rather one of limited resources. Like you, I have a finite amount of concern in me. I have even less money and time.

I understand all these things are important and that plenty of people lie awake at night stressing over what to do about them. I'm glad they worry about malaria or literacy, but I'm not going to. I have my own causes to champion.

I'm not telling you what my causes are because this isn't about them. It's about the passion human beings have for our causes — so much so that it can backfire on us.

It's possible to become so committed to a cause that you lose perspective and start believing it's the only cause and that anyone who doesn't sign on is worthy of your outrage.

I've gotten so wrapped up in something I believed in that people who refused to go along with it became the enemy. When they told me "no," I took it personally and went on the offense.

Most notable of these moments in my life was as a Mormon missionary. Back then I was so convinced that I had everyone else's best interests at heart that I was willing to insult them to get my point across.

This never worked out as well as I hoped. If I told someone they were going to hell because they weren't smart enough to listen to me, they never paused, reconsidered and said, "Well, in that case come on in and tell me all about it."

But I was a kid then and not smart enough to realize that the same behavior wouldn't have worked on me. I didn't know then that the correct response to being told "no" was not to behave in a way that guaranteed it was always to be "no."

In 2003, I was sent to cover the Rainbow Coalition gathering in the mountains of Wyoming. It was a huge gathering of off-grid, counterculture types looking to escape societal controls for the purposes of free expression. Like Scout camp but with girls and lots of weed.

A press contact there was a forest woman who correctly identified me as someone in the media who might help get the word out about her cause: the evils of eating meat.

I listened, thanked her and said I would think about it. And I did. For a couple of minutes. Half an hour later, forest woman spotted me eating a piece of jerky.

The outraged harangue that followed really got me thinking about meat consumption — namely that jerky wasn't cutting it. I had to get out of there and find some barbecue.

But when the world you want to save becomes the only thing that matters, it's easy to start thinking that the people in it don't.

There are lots of things in the world that need saving and fixing. Quite often what needs fixing first is our delivery.

Robert Kirby can be reached at rkirby@sltrib.com or facebook.com/stillnotpatbagley.

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