What About Passion
"Passion, though a bad regulator, is a powerful spring."
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)
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:
Lonny J. Brown is the author of
Enlightenment In Our Time”
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.