Thursday, February 18, 2010

What's Your Passion?

I'm tired of this expression, this use of the word 'passion'. Whenever I'm asked "What's your passion?" I'm tempted - profoundly, deeply, shall I say it - oh yes - PASSIONATELY - inclined to respond "Well, I like a strapping young cowboy and wild crazy monkey sex in a barn with the cows and pigs watching me this time." I don't say it. But every fiber of my being cries out to do so. I want to see the shocked expressions on those faces. I want to drive home the fact that passion is not something so commonplace that everybody has one they can publicly expound upon while chatting at Starbucks.

For example, I love tulips. I would have a gazillion tulips sprouting in my yard, in vases around the house, in my car, in my hair. This is not a passion. I do not suffer, endure, stake my very life and being on tulips. Even if I did indulge my desire for everything tulip, it would only be, at best, an obsession, at worst OCD. Never would it arise to the level of a passion. Bubba Tyrone, who wistfully shares that he has a 'passion for music' is misguided - listening to everything Cher is merely an obsession.

Passion is something more. According to Merriam-Webster, passion is a state of being acted upon by external forces, it is ungovernable emotion, an intense, overmastering conviction. Passion takes to you the very heights - and depths - of all that makes life glorious and sacred. Beethoven, writing symphonies while his own ears couldn't hear the notes, had a passion. Mother Teresa, slogging through the disease and pathetic prejudice of a caste system in order to bring comfort and love to those deemed universally vile, had a passion. Anyone willing to risk suffering the depths of pain and despair to bring love and beauty to an otherwise cruel and vicious world has passion.

For those of us who are rationally compelled to anger and joy in the realms of politics, fashion, music, charity, religion, and, yes, sex, these are - for most of us - merely interests. However motivated we may feel, we rarely rise (or sink) to the extreme levels of passion. I exhort us all to delve into those various interests and to give them our all when necessary. But I must caution us all to avoid like the plague the extremes of passion - of being controlled by some uncontrollable emotion so fierce it might take all we hold dear.

I don't know how we got to the place where everyone must have a passion and is thereby compelled to discuss them over cocktails, coffee or on early morning newsertainment shows. Perhaps we just don't want to feel that we are run of the mill. We want to feel special, to highlight that which defines and motivates us. To hold ourselves out as something more than the every day, with qualities that are unique and special. In doing so, we only manage to express our similarities.

Similarities are still good things. A friend who lay dying expressed that it wasn't the glories of her life that she would miss. It wasn't the celebrity parties, the best seller lists, the hobbnobbing with the great and the wannabes. It was the every day, the little moments listening to her children fight, her husband grumble, the sunlight through the kitchen window while the coffee brewed. To which I say, touche. Go forth, people. Dare to be ordinary.

1 comment:

  1. Good post. In some ways it reminds me of Barbara Ehrenreich's latest book on the self-help industry and "positive thinking".