Saturday, July 13, 2024
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Passion is Power

Passion is power. On the color spectrum from faint interest to rabid obsession, it is toward the red end of the continuum. Passion is accompanied by the sound of primal yahoos, castanets in the heart, the beating of wings. It is the natural exudation of love, any kind of love, and spills from us like heat from a fire. Passion is the smelling salts of the soul. Passion’s message is the same one that love brings: follow.

Passion is what we are most deeply curious about, most hungry for, will most hate to lose in life. It is the most desperate wish we need to yell down the well of our lives. It is whatever we pursue merely for its own sake, what we study when there are no tests to take, what we create though no one may ever see it. It makes us forget that the sun rose and set, that we have bodily functions and personal relations that could use a little tending. It is what we’d do if we weren’t worried about consequences, about money, about making anybody happy but ourselves. It is whatever we could be tempted to sell our souls for in order to have a hundred extra years just to devote to it, whatever fills us with the feeling poet Anne Sexton was referring to when she said that “when I’m writing, I know I’m doing the thing I was born to do.” It is what matters most, whether we’re doing it or not.

“There is a sudden knock at your door,” says author Deena Metzger in her book Writing for your Life. “A trusted friend enters to warn you that the Dream Police will arrive in twenty minutes. Everything, everything in your life that you have not written down will evaporate upon their arrival. You have only twenty minutes to preserve what is most precious in your life, what has formed you, what sustains you, what is essential, what you cannot live without.

“Whatever you forget will disappear. Everything, to be saved, must be named, in its particularity. Not trees, but oak. Not animals, but wolf. Not people, but Alicia. As in reality, what has no name, no specificity, vanishes.”

Whatever passions you can specify, know that there are also passions within those passions that constitute their emotional cores, which is what you’re really after, the needs your passions satisfy, what you want them to bring to you. The passion may be painting, parenting, solving mysteries, making people laugh, solitude, social action, or a certain country, but within it are metapassions: the need for freedom, creative fulfillment, security, belonging, influence, love.

Our passions call us to follow not jus the painting or the inventing or the public speaking but also the need for expression; to follow not just politics or martial arts but also the need for power or empowerment; to honor not just our hunger for retreat or meditation or a move to the country but also for serenity. A woman I know is ardent about carving statues of Buddha and has come to understand that she is also trying to teach herself about compassion. A man I know has a passion for Ireland – the country of his ancestors – and it has led him to explore his own lifelong feelings of rootlessness and exile, and his need for bearings.

“The thing is to stalk your calling in a certain skilled and supple way,” the author Annie Dillard once wrote, “to locate the most tender and live spot and plug into the pulse.”

From the book “CALLINGS, Finding and Following an Authentic Life” by Gregg Levoy