The Nature of Enthusiasm

Last night, in the middle of a phone conference for our final round of submissions for Conclave: A Journal of Character, my friend and managing editor S. brought up the subject of enthusiasm, specifically in reference to Eckhart Tolle’s discussion of the etymology and the spiritual practice of enthusiasm.

I haven’t read Tully’s A New Earth, but as I understand it, he writes that instead of relying on ego, enthusiasm rides the wave of the present moment and “gives out its own abundance.” When you combine inspired vision along with excitement your creativity soars. Enthusiasm takes over and you resonate with the creative power of the Universe.

After we finished our talk, discussed the round of dramatic excerpts, and made plans to continue the next evening, I began to think more about enthusiasm. First step for a logophile? Etymology of course.

Enthusiasm comes from the ancient Greek. This from The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology | Date: 1996

enthusiasm †prophetic or poetic frenzy; vain confidence in divine inspiration, misguided religious emotion XVII; rapturous or passionate eagerness XVIII. — F. enthousiasme or late L. enthūsiasmus — Gr. enthousiasmós, f. enthousiázein be inspired or possessed by the god, f. énthous, éntheos inspired, possessed, f. en IN + theós god.
So enthusiast XVII. — F. or ecclL. enthusiastic XVII. — Gr. Hence enthuse vb. XIX.

Reflecting back, I can say that I have been in a state of enthusiasm during several periods of my life, times when I have been completely riding the wave of inspiration, present in the moment. For me, enthusiasm and creativity/creation go hand in hand.

Whether I have been immersed in a literary project, challenged in a seminar, engaged by teaching, or fully present in my body for dance (be it folk, bellydancing, or dancing all night long in Neo in Chicago), when I am creating something that feels authentic and precious to me, I am enthusiastic.

Would I say then that those moments are Divinely inspired? Maybe. I certainly feel compelled by something greater than myself. I know that several writers and artists report this feeling–the idea that the characters and story seem to have a life of their own. Working on The Silence of Trees, I felt as if I had to get the story out. I had to honor the characters and the historical women who inspired them.

When I listen to my intuition and act upon something that engages me, I usually find that I am happiest–even when it means I stay up until 3 am, only to be awakened by the kids at 6am. I may be tired, but I feel fueled by my work. I feel like I am doing what I am meant to do. I am enthusiastic.

Sharing Dreams

In 1997, I was a student in the inaugural class of the MFA in Writing Program at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Living and working in the city, I occasionally met my father, Walter Dudycz, who was an Illinois State Senator at the time, for breakfast when he wasn’t in session. We often talked about his political and my literary endeavors.

One morning over waffles, he mentioned a colleague of his who particularly impressed him. Even though my father was a Republican and this man a Democrat, my father was struck by the younger statesman’s integrity and charisma. My father recounted an anecdote about the early days of this newly elected Senator.

As an Assistant Majority Leader of the Senate, my father often presided over the legislative proceedings. Whenever a senator addressed the chair, protocol required him or her to address the presiding officer as Mr. President or Madam President. During a lull in the proceedings that my father was presiding over, he approached Illinois State Senator Barack Obama to ask how he was enjoying his experiences as a freshman legislator.

Addressing my father as Mr. President, Senator Obama explained that he was enjoying his time very much. My father responded that while Senator Obama may have had hidden aspirations to be President someday, my father was content with being called Walter. This was the beginning of a friendly working relationship, where the two family men occasionally shared details about their personal lives.

When my father mentioned that I was in the process of writing my first novel, Senator Obama revealed that he had recently published his first book. The next day, the Senator handed my father a first edition of his book, Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance, inscribed with:

“To Valya – I understand I’ll be reading one of your books
soon! I wish you all the best! Warm Regards, Barack Obama.”

Senator Barack Obama's Inscription to Valya Dudycz Lupescu

Since then, I have followed U.S. Senator Barack Obama’s political career with interest, drawn as so many others are to his enthusiasm and sincerity.

I would love to send Senator Barack Obama an autographed first edition of my novel, The Silence of Trees, and to be able to address it to “Mr. President.”

I hope that someday both of our dreams will come true.