Tuesday, June 22, 2010


Passion. We most often associate passion with sex in America. We’re all uptight and sexually repressed so everything must have to do with sex, right?

Passion is a noun, stemming from Middle English and dated to the 13th century, with Anglo-French and Late Latin roots. It comes from the Latin passio, meaning suffering, being acted upon, and from pati, to suffer. While the reference to suffering has largely passed out of use, one can see how it’s still applicable. Pleasure itself can be a way of suffering. That aside, in its basic form, passion refers to “the state or capacity of being acted on by external agents or forces.” It’s an emotion, it’s intense, it drives, it overmasters, it’s a conviction, an outbreak, a feeling of ardent affection and overpowering desire.

Pretty intense, huh?

It’s supposed to be. And not just in a sexual sense, you dirty-minded 21st century repressed people.

In the Middle Ages, it was far more acceptable to display intense emotions. In present day, people can be animated, but usually it seems in a negative capacity. A “how much can I complain about the weather and how little can I get by with doing at work and bitch about how tired I am after a couch-session of five hours with Law and Order and two bags of movie-theater butter popcorn” kind of thing.

Passion is not sex. It’s a part of sex. Passion is applicable to everything. You have to have passion, you have to have an overwhelming drive. If you don’t, you’ll sit and stagnate. But in our society, being passionate (thinking little bookworm kid in love with libraries) or having a sense of wonder isn’t popular or encouraged. But for a writer, it’s an essential part of the stew. How then do you cultivate passion and a sense of the miraculous without wandering off into a Teletubbies or Barney special?

First, know yourself. Know what drives you, what you love. And if you don’t know, then what gets you up at 4 A.M. What would you give up sleep in order to do? What gives you a childlike sense of wonder?

Second, know those around you. If they don’t support you, get new people. There’s nothing wrong with having drive, with having passion, or being in awe, with running for days at a time on sheer enthusiasm and excitement over what you’re doing. If the people in your life don’t get that, it’s time to change it up.

Third, walk without looking at the ground. Scientists have proven (at least as far as PBS is concerned) that older people who’ve had a fall grow fearful. So when they walk, instead of looking out level, they look down, turning eyes and head to the floor, to watch where they’re walking. Well this reverses the lifelong training for the part of the brain in charge of balance. It’s getting new signals and can’t interpret them properly, often resulting in the person falling. If you don’t want to fall, you can’t look at the ground, you have to look at the 360 degrees around you. Like Wile E. Coyote, you won’t fall until you notice there’s just air beneath you.

I can’t give you passion. I can’t tell you what your drives are. But maybe it’s not too much to believe that being passionate can be cool. Besides, passion is hott :-P