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What About Passion
by Lonny BrownHancock, NH

ring of fire in shape of heart"Passion, though a bad regulator, is a powerful spring."

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)
U.S. poet, essayist and lecturer.


In these times of endless war and escalating violence— when humanity is being challenged to become more emotionally intelligent— what is the place of that peculiarly human propensity called passion? Is passion antithetical to peace? Can enlightened, 21st-Century man be passionate and compassionate?

Passion can bring destruction or salvation, depending on the object of one’s devotion, and the spectrum is endless. One friend defines passion as intense sensuality. Sometimes it can be indistinguishable from addiction. The private passion of love can cause transcendent joy and bliss, or tremendous pain and suffering. Public passion such as patriotism is necessary for national defense and waging war. But to the crew of Spaceship Earth this form of organized mass emotion has outlived its usefulness. Some theorize that Super Bowltype mass media contact sports provide a viable alternative for channeling male aggression. So, if I’m not passionate about football, am I less manly; or less American?

Saints & Sinners

Ironically, we admire the religious fervor of saints like Joan of Arc, amid familiar warnings that passion is seductive and dangerous. In the Asian meditative disciplines, dispassion is the ideal, while passion is seen as the very anathema of mindfulness. The Tantric tradition is exceptional in that it utilizes (transmutes) passion in direct service to enlightenment practices. The warning that always comes with these teachings is that they can be deadly to the weak of character.

Passion can be something we cry for or die for. Can we be passionate about peace? Gandhi, King, and Christ left no doubt. The traditional Christian Easter “Passion play,” is an enduring lesson in mystical self-sacrifice for the highest ideals.

The Fire Within

What are you passionate about? Principles? Politics? Religion? People? Sports? Mother Earth? The arts? Food? Love? I am totally enthralled by science, which I consider the purest quest for knowledge and truth about creation, and therefore eminently spiritual. The passion of modern cosmologists like Michio Kaku and Neil DeGrasse Tyson is absolutely contagious. Theoretical physicists are invariably in awe of the world and universe they investigate, not to mention the realization of the extreme unlikeliness of anything actually existing at all!

Supposedly, there are as many things to be obsessed about as there are people. But this powerful impulse does not always serve us well. We have crimes of passion and all the human misery perpetuated by the destructive passions of hatred, greed, and envy. If passion is personal, then compassion must be selfless.

A Passionate Life

A dear old friend of mine was recently, randomly murdered, ironically in a place known for its spirituality and natural beauty, Sedona, Arizona. Carol was among the most alive people I’ve ever met. A cosmic earth mother version of Zorba The Greek, she was enthusiastic about everything, interested in everyone, musically gifted, perpetually young at heart and extremely open minded. Aside from the shock of her violent death, Carol’s sudden absence from her beloved small New Hampshire village left family and friends reaching to describe her unique, indefatigable spirit. I realized that in our 40-year friendship, I never met anyone with more passion for life. In honor of her vivacious legacy, I have vowed to put a bit more lift in my step from now on. I dedicate this essay to my friend’s inspiring memory, and end with the wisdom of the late, great mythologist, Joseph Campbell:

“If you follow your bliss, you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. Wherever you are – if you are following your bliss, you are enjoying that refreshment, that life within you, all the time.”


Lonny J. Brown is the author of Enlightenment In Our Time” (www.BookLocker.com/LonnyBrown), Self- Actuated Healing (Naturegraph, Publ.), and the online column, The Holistic Mystic (TheMetaArts.com). His writings on holistic health have appeared on AOL’s Alternative Medicine Forum and in Alternative Health Practitioner, Yoga Journal, and many other progressive publications. Brown teaches holistic health, mind/body healing, and stress reduction courses at hospitals, schools and businesses throughout the U.S. www.LonnyBrown.com.