There is an island just off the coast of Croatia, a little less than a square mile in size. It packs a riveting backstory that’s led to a captivating mystery. The island’s actual name is Baljenac, but it’s become known more popularly as Fingerprint Island.

It’s barren;  with the exception of a little vegetation, there’s not a single living thing on the island that rates higher than a bug on the food chain. But there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that it wasn’t always desolate. It’s quite easy to see that there was a time when the island played host to thriving human activity and animal life. But it’s gone now and the question of what happened is one that’s drawn substantial attention from archaeologists and historians. What led to the abandonment and death of a small island that sits so close to a rich culture?

One glance at an aerial photo and you know immediately how the island came upon its descriptive nickname. The maze is made up of stones that have been piled up in the form of a short brick wall, but there’s no specific rhyme or reason to it. It’s not a maze. It doesn’t go anywhere. There’s no entry point, no exit. It’s random and it covers the entire island from shoreline to shoreline. Mysterious indeed.

Who did it and why? That’s the question that keeps researchers researching.

On Saturday, I posted a blog about how I became a passionate reader. We not only looked at how I was bitten by the bug, but also examined a slice of wisdom from Solomon regarding the infatuations of youth. Today, I wanted to examine the flipside of that coin. Passion is what keeps our blood pumping and feeds our zest for life, but out-of-control passion brings with it destructive consequences.

I have a lot of things that I greatly enjoy. Some are kept in check by nature, others come with deeper trappings. I love to work in the yard, but I can’t do as much as I could in my 40’s. The spirit is still willing, but my stamina isn’t what it used to be. I find great pleasure in managing my fantasy baseball team, but I have to put time restrictions on it or I would waste hours in captivating, but pointless research. It is, after all, a fantasy.

In its origin, passion is used to describe someone who willingly opens up to suffering and finds fulfillment therein. It properly describes the final days of the life of Christ. We are familiar with the expression, “The Passion of Christ,” but do we naturally associate passion with a brutal, crippling pain that is physical or emotional? Probably not.

Passion is a burning, consuming emotion, apt to overtake and redirect our every desire. It goes boldly to battle with our thought processes and our ability to make reasonable decisions. It stops us in our tracks and turns our world upside down, at times leaving vital priorities and needs completely neglected as a result. Passion can drive a relationship to realms of bliss, but it also possesses the venom to kill it.

So passion is a danger, something to be avoided at all cost, right? No… not at all. Passion is what pulls us toward the most fulfilling things in life. Without it our world would become a stale black and white blend of blah. Life, without passion, would become a distressing existence. Not only should we welcome passion as a part of our daily lives, but we should be grateful for it and embrace the joy. But, we must always work to keep it in-check because unbridled passion can take over and destroy everything that was once beautiful.

So it is with a loving relationship that becomes suffocating. So it is with the workaholic. So it is with the hobbyist whose house has become the world’s largest beer can collection, or the person who has allowed their life to be consumed by those things which live only in a computerize online environment, be it games or social media platforms.

Let’s revisit Fingerprint Island and discover what led to its ruin.

History reveals that there was a culture in years past that relied on the production of wine. The island had been set aside for the purpose of expanding the vineyards and the environment was perfectly suitable, with the exception of the soil. Although rich in the nutrients, the ground was strewn with so much subsurface rock that it was impossible to plow and plant. The first stage involved excavating the rock so that the ground could be tilled. Rather than haul the rock off or pile it up on one end of the island, the workers simply stacked it in rows a few feet to the left or right and the fingerprint pattern began to emerge.

Fresh water was in abundant supply, so irrigation was easy to engineer. There was plenty of rock handy that could be used to build ditches and gullies – more threads in the fingerprint. It didn’t take long to turn the island from barren wasteland with no habitation other than bugs in the soil, to a beautiful vineyard that flourished in the environment. History says that the vineyard was very productive and the end product was superb.

As the vineyard grew, it required more time from a growing number of workers. The workers took pride in the vineyard and the more attention they gave, the more the vineyard rewarded their stewardship.

The workers also loved to hunt. The more time they spent caring for the demands of the vineyard, the less time they had to go hunting. As the story is told, their favorite game was wild rabbit and someone proposed the idea of bringing a small population of rabbits to the island so that the workers would have exclusive access to hunting game during their down time.

The island had no animal life at all. Thus, there were no natural predators to keep the rabbit population in check. Within a couple of years, the population had grown to the point of no return. The rabbits were thriving on the rich vegetation and the staff were caught up in an effort to keep the population numbers at bay so the vineyard could survive.

Without the help of natural predators, the workers eventually lost the war. The vineyard fell to utter ruin and was abandoned. As you might expect, the rabbit population eventually outgrew the food supply because rabbits are want to do what rabbits do. Over the course of a few years, the vineyard was gone, the rabbits died out, and the island was left barren. All that is left is a fingerprint that bears witness to the beauty of what once was, before the passion of the workers (and the rabbits) killed it.

“The happiness of a man in this life does not consist

in the absence but in the mastery of his passions.”

                                – Alfred, Lord Tennyson

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