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Are Professions Taught or Born?

A musician must make his music, an artist must paint, a poet must write if he is to ultimately be at peace with himself.  ~Abraham Maslow

Kyle and his Aunt Nikki - Heather Piper
Kyle with his first Thomas the Train set. Courtesy of Aunt Nikki

It seems as though some people are born into professions rather than are taught.  I’ve watched this theory strengthen through observations over the years.  It seems as though being true to your profession means it is an innate part of you.  Now I’m not saying this is a blanket statement for everyone, but I’ve always known this to be true for people of the clergy.  Certain individuals are chosen by God to serve Him in a specific blessed way that others aren’t called to do so.

Along the way, I’ve had the honor of meeting such talented people.  For example, I’ve known many artists, but there are only a couple that I can say not only have a natural talent, but their profession is a part of them.  It is who they are.  They can’t stop drawing or painting or whatever the case may be.  It consumes them and their thoughts.  It’s like their existence, their reason to live, is art.  It’s not just a passion, it’s more, it seems to be part of their DNA.  This is not a judgement nor a criticism, but an observation.  Again, there are a lot of artists, whom I would consider to be truly talented and really enjoy what they do, but I’m not talking about them, I am referring to a different breed of people. Those who don’t need a vacation from their profession.  Those who have had a life long passion for what they do.  Off the top of my head, Henri Matisse comes to mind.  I’m not saying I knew him, but I have studied his works.  During his last days, when most would have retired, he gave direction to interns on how to expedite his cutouts.  Another famous art figure is Edgar Degas.  When Degas’ hands were becoming crippled from old age, he sculpted the La Petite Danseuse de Quatorze Ans (Little Dancer of 14 Years) in wax before being cast in bronze and adorned with ribbon and a skirt.  It was easier on his hands to sculpt in warm wax.  I also wouldn’t feel right if I didn’t mention my favorite painter, Caspar David Friedrich.

Watching Kyle grow up, I’ve had the opportunity to really study his behavior.  I’ve seen the way he enjoys putting together 500 and 1,000 piece puzzle sets, without effort.  From the time he was about three years old till he discovered video games, around the age of six or seven, he was the self-proclaimed “Puzzle Boy”.  He used to put together his puzzles on the coffee table and say, “Look pap pap, I’m puzzle boy.”  He loved the challenge of bigger puzzle sets, and I mean bigger in terms of the number of pieces.  He didn’t care what the picture was on the puzzle, just that it had a ton of tiny pieces.  I used to buy Kyle large notepads to draw and paint pictures but, alas, he could care less.  He would watch me paint and draw, but he never really had the desire, unless he was painting numbers.  I don’t mean paint by numbers, I mean actually painting the shapes of numbers, and then sometimes doing math problems.

Little Dancer of 14 Years- Edgar Degas - Heather Piper
I took this picture in the Museum D’Orsay in Paris. Little Dancer of 14-Years – Edgar Degas

Over the years I would watch Kyle build.  He would take building blocks, cardboard boxes, books, you name it, he always had to build.  It first started with the Thomas the Train set.  He would build tracks that consumed the entire living room floor, eventually pushing himself by making the track more challenging, curving over other pieces of track, getting to another section.  Then Kyle discovered Legos.  That’s all I have to say.  This kid is still such a Lego nut, sometimes that’s all he talks about.  Building this, building that.  He’s even told me about some of his dreams and, you know what, they include building Legos.  He has close to every Lego set made on the planet, his favorite being Star Wars.  Every now and again, I catch him writing papers for school and explaining how much he loves to build and how good he is.

My theory wouldn’t do justice unless I explained what happened in convenience stores on a number of occasions.  When Kyle was a little tike and I would grab a bottle of water, Kyle would actually push the other bottles toward the front, that is if they didn’t slide down on their own.  Then he would proceed to straighten the bottle so the labels were facing front.  In fact, we would put juice boxes in the refrigerator for him and he would straighten them.  They were placed at his height and he would go in the fridge, straighten the boxes so they were in a perfect line and all the labels were facing front, sometimes stacking them.  It would creep me out when I opened the refrigerator door.  It was like the movie “Sleeping with the Enemy” when Julia Roberts opened the cupboard and saw all the cans straightened perfectly.  Yep, that was Kyle, although not a neat freak in the slightest.  He just likes straight lines and uniformity.

Caspar David Friedrich- Heather Piper
Me standing by a Friedrich in Berlin! Yes, that’s a T-shirt I got from the Saatchi Gallery.

As the years went on, I would see true engineering traits being displayed by Kyle.  He has become more like my sister, who is an electrical engineer.  Come to think of it, much of my immediate family are engineers or builders in some form or fashion.  Once, Kyle pulled out his stylus from his 3DS and proceeded to examine how it was put together.  Recently, last Wednesday, Kyle took my sticky tabs, those pop-up tabs you used to mark a page or to mark a section in a document that needs signed.  I watched him as he examined its functionality.  He said, “O, I see how it works.”  Then he went into this dissertation on how the item was assembled so it works properly.  Sometimes Kyle tells me his own theories on how some things should be put together and the better way to do it.  It’s really pretty neat to watch his thoughts.  I am currently reading the Steve Jobs book.  Not that I ever met Steve Wozniak, but Kyle does remind me of him, at least according to how he’s portrayed in the book in his early days.  To me, Steve Wozniak was a true engineer, it was an innate part of him, part of his DNA.  He could not have been anything else.

I’m not one of those rare individuals who has a special part of my DNA structured for a specific profession.  I can do a little of a lot of things, but not a true profession.  My only talent, so I’ve been told, is the ability to change the attitude of people around me and have them follow me.  At least that’s what I’ve been accused of.  At that thought, Jasper Hale (Twilight) comes to mind.

Kyle personal list- Heather Piper
Kyle had to describe himself… building made the list twice.

I’m now wondering if we, as a society, have allowed the distractions and challenges to change or alter our true calling.  Maybe it’s ’cause you need to put food on the table and a shirt on the back, which is the responsible thing to do, just maybe not the most romantic.

Published inBooks, Movies, ShowsCommon SenseEducation & LearningFamilyObservation & ImaginationReminiscing

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