Last year at about this time (1/14/14), I posted a blog, How to Follow Your Passion When You Don’t Know What It Is. You can find it by title in the Index to the right of this page and read or re-read it as a companion piece to this. Beyond that, you will see frequent references to the themes of “passion, following your bliss, living with meaning and purpose, living from the heart,” and other such related themes in most of my work and words. In the 1/14/14 post, I simply make one point about passion – that many people struggle with the fact that they don’t seem to have any passion at all, and that makes them feel defective, and/or deeply disappointed in their lives. I have never met or worked with a person who didn’t have any passions, but I have met with many people who did not know how to recognize them because they had a certain image of what a passion was supposed to look and feel like.
But there is so much more to say about passion! It’s a vast historic and contemporary subject, ridiculous to even attempt to approach in a blog. But for me personally and professionally, the experience of and or subject of passion emerges on a daily basis, and then when I go home, there it is again somewhere in the nightly news. I guess you could say I am passionate about passion, and I have a lot to say about it. This week the story of ISIS captive Kayla Mueller, the 26-year-old from Prescott, Arizona, was all over the news. She is an example of a person so overtaken by her passion (in this case for the people of Syria) that she was willing to risk her life for it.
In the letter to her parents from captivity, she indicated that she had found the good in people even in those circumstances, that she had surrendered to God, and that she had no regrets except for the fact that she had caused them so much suffering. Here is an example of someone who in former times would no doubt have been referred to as a saint. She is also controversial, as were most of the saints. Some might call her naïve or foolish or crazy. She was nothing, if not passionate.
Not all passions are created equal. Passion is a word we toss around with increasing frequency, whether we are talking about a passion for a certain food or film or pastime or subject. In the career sense, it seems that everyone, from millennials to boomers, are searching for passion in their lives and work. But if you consult the dictionary, chances are it will begin with “The Passion”, which refers to the life, suffering and death of Jesus Christ, and on to multiple other definitions, all of which connote a certain out-of-the ordinary-ness; something intense; something highly emotional and/or powerful. Mostly we understand that if we say we are passionate about something, we mean we feel more intensely about it than if we just said we liked it or even loved it. We can be passionate about something or someone good for us, and/or something or someone not so good
Some people don’t search for their passion, their passion seizes them. An inexplicable energy or force or transcendent power overtakes them with an irresistible vision, and they cannot rest until they bring that vision into reality. It is usually not a skip down the lane. German filmmaker, producer, director, writer, actor and visionary Werner Herzog is an example of someone seized by passions and visions that drive all of his creative work. In his documentary film, The Burden of Dreams, you begin to understand that the vision is not always an uplifting joy but actually a burden. And don’t expect other people to love you for bringing your vision into reality. Controversy tends to follow
There is no reasonable explanation for why you are passionate about whatever you are passionate about. Why is not really the question when it comes to your passion. Whether it is science or music or outer space, your passion can lead you home. Passions demand your attention. If you completely ignore them, you will not be at peace, nor will you ever get a sense that you are “fully alive”. If you try to bury them, they will haunt you. Follow your passions in order to find your way, but don’t expect smooth sailing. There will be turbulence.