Tag Archives: enthusiasm


I’m prone to enthusiasms.

That might seem funny to my wife, since it’s kind of a joke between her and me that I have two modes of expression, noncommital and vehement. But vehemence can be an expression of enthusiasm, and enthusiasm is really a mode of perception and action, not of expression. I’m often very enthusiastic about a thing without actually saying much about it. I just take an avid interest in it and read a lot about it – and maybe write about it too. And maybe every so often it comes up in conversation and I go on a bit much if the other person seems interested.

I think it’s hereditary. My brother has enthusiasms, too, and our father is strongly prone to enthusiasms. (Our mother is a very patient, good-natured person.) It’s true that enthusiastic people can be a bit tiring at times, but boy, can they get things done. Even if their perspective may seem a little imbalanced to us, we benefit from it. It’s like the man whose wife came to the doctor and said, “My husband thinks he’s a chicken.” “How long has he thought this?” the doctor asked. “A few months now,” the woman said. “A few months!” the doctor said. “Why didn’t you come sooner?” The woman shrugged and said, “We needed the eggs.”

What, really, is enthusiasm? It’s a kind of wind in your sails. It picks you up and you get carried away. Lord Shaftesbury once wrote, “Inspiration is a real feeling of the Divine Presence, and Enthusiasm a false one,” but I think there is something of the divine wind in enthusiasm. And not just because Japanese for ‘divine wind’ is kamikaze. Nor is it just because the “thu” sounds a bit like a gust of wind. No, though inspiration comes from Latin for ‘breathing in’, if you want divinity, you should turn to the Greeks, whose word for ‘god’ was θεος theos, and whose word for ‘possessed by a god’ was ἔνθεος entheos, and from that came ἐνθουσιασμός enthousiasmos, ‘state of being possessed by a god’, whence our enthusiasm.

So. Not just divine wind. Possession! If someone says “What has gotten into you?” you can tell them it’s a divinity. And remember, possession is nine points in the law. (No, not nine-tenths of the law. Look, I’m a bit of an enthusiast for looking things like that up, OK?)