Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Passion (no, not that kind)

Columnar basalt

I have been doing some listening lately, and a common thread has unwound from dissimilar narratives and wrapped around my brain.

Three people lately have been telling me about things that they do in this life because they want to, because it's a passion. One person does it as a volunteer, the others for work.

I observe the passion in these people, and i listen. Curiously, most of what i am seeing that could be called a strong emotion looks a lot like anger.

So are they having fun? I mean, is this passion a good thing? Truthfully, i try and avoid things that will make me angry. (I do read/listen to the news, because i don't want to be too ignorant, and that often does make me angry. But other than that, if it is likely to piss me off, i will avoid it if i can.)

All three of the people who have been talking to me seemed very unhappy and frustrated with a lot of their lives. I did ask one, the one who is the volunteer, why she keeps on with this task, when it upsets and angers her so much. She couldn't really answer me except for that it involves her church, and she feels like she has no choice but to continue.

I don't know exactly what i am trying to say here. I was just caught by the fact that none of these three are experiencing any joy from their chosen passions. Maybe passion isn't supposed to make you happy and i should be glad to be without one.

Then again, maybe happiness is overrated.


Lisa :-] said...

"Passion" isn't always a positive emotion. I am passionate about my restaurant...but that often leads to frustration, exhaustion, anger... So am I happy all the time? No. Am I feeling fulfilled because I am finally able to do what I feel passionate about? Yes. It doesn't always make me happy. It makes me feel alive. And living isn't always easy...

Anonymous said...

Having strong feelings is definitely better than not. Even when those feelings may not be "happy" ones. Happiness may be overrated, and sadness is probably underrated, but having passion for something is hard to argue with.

Anonymous said...

Hmm, too deep for me at this time in the morning, but I think you are right, it may or may not be a passion but 'those' people are definitely 'driven' quite often by their own deamons. Maybe it's therapy on the cheap? But if other people benefit too it can't be all bad.
Best wishes

Cheesy said...

Oh I want to climb those rocks!!!

Passion can be a tricky mindset..I find I have to control mine..Or they get the better of me. Sigh**

Cagey (Kelli Oliver George) said...


Just the other night, I was telling my husband that my parents had a very passionate relationship, but that it included both extremes of love AND hate. The arguments were intense, as was the love. And it didn't last.

Daphne Enns said...


I found my passion when I began to paint. While there are frustrating times, either because I don't have time to work or because a painting is proving difficult to resolve, I am always moved to a mental space where very little can bother me. Painting brings me unexpected peace.

But, then again, I searched for a long time to find my passion and my place in the world.

Ugh, I probably sound flaky.

Girlplustwo said...

ah. well it depends on your passion, yes? if i am passion at art and get to paint all day, am not sure of the anger there. if i am passionate about homelessness, and it feels like so many others aren't and people are suffering because of that, well, yes. anger.

anger fuels that passion and gets things done. makes you try harder. so anger is useful. might be a hardship on the individual, but it moves the boat forward. but everything has it's price.

Princess in Galoshes said...

Passion is what leads people to stay committed through something, even when the going gets rough, I think.

So it only makes sense that when you care that deeply, and things don't go right, that you would feel anger or frustration. But at the heart of it, I think passion comes from caring about something, and that is a positive emotion.

Anonymous said...

I have been referred to many times as passionate. I do wonder sometimes if that is a good thing, I tend to get into things way too much.

panasonic massage chairs

Marshamlow said...

I wonder if having a passion is a form of ADHD?

TTQ said...

I'm only happy when it rains. I hate the rain.

ms chica said...

I've been thinking about passion for a few monthss. There are so many nuances of this post I would like to comment on, but my comment would exceed the length of your post, which would hardly qualify it as a comment at all.

Anger and frustration share similar symptoms, but they are hardly the same emotion.

thailandchani said...

The older I get, the less I am attracted to anything that causes extremes of emotion. On the other hand, I can't imagine living without a passion which I tend to equate with purpose.



QT said...

I agree with you that passion - towards a cause or an effort - can cause the extremes of emtion, especially frustration.

As someone else posted, I think passion helps someone stay devoted through thick and thin. Otherwise, why not bail when the going gets rough?

Biscotto said...

Maybe passion is the thing that makes you keep doing something even when it isn't pleasant. Passion drives a relationship through the small gap between the rock and the hard place. It keeps people working even though some parts of their jobs suck. It makes people paint or cook or write or exercise even when the results are painful, bad, or painfully bad. Maybe the yucky stuff is what we need to talk about when we talk to friends. It's actually kind of embarrassing to go over the top with enthusiasm about something. When I do it, people tease me or tell me I'm a nut.


Bob said...

passion is almost a modifier in that (except for a common usage interpretation as having a sexual connotation) it indicates an extreme of an emotion such as love or hate. I think most people make a positive association with the word - as you seem to have in this post - but as Jen indicates, her passion for helping the homeless is often due to the anger she experiences that homelessness exists or the frustration that it isn't being dealt with properly.

I guess it is the context that determines whether passion is good or bad, helpful or hurtful.

Dick said...

This has generated a lot of good comments. I think that it is not possible to have happiness all the time and to expect that is looking at disappointment. Life is full of ups and downs but looking forward to the next "up" can sure help us get through those "downs."

Anonymous said...

I think passion sits beside stronger emotions like anger, they're on the edge and I think it's easy to tip into anger when you're that close to it. That being said, I wouldn't give up the passion I have for a more sedate life. Passion is like speeding, it can be exhilarating or it can be dangerous.

urban-urchin said...

Chani brought up an interesting point- is passion a purpose? I think they are separate but many people confuse them. Passion is drive I think, but I also think that if you are miserable and are as your friend is staying because it's part of her church, you need to examine that and perhaps find that you'd benefit more from refocusing your energy elsewhere....

flutter said...

I think the anger comes fom not being able to fully immerse oneself in passion...or maybe not, I could be talking out of my butt.

lu said...

Maybe passionate happiness is an oxymoron. Extremes never seem to hold on to a state of bliss, it's too volatile.

On happiness--Today one of my students said- "I'm a glass half empty kind a guy...half full is too easy."

I gave him the "right on brutha" knuckle bump.

Sienna said...

I don't know either (about the people doing their volunteer work) sounds like oh great the passion....but resentment and some anger there too.... how does that all work then? Quirky, am enjoying reading what others think and feel though; always learning something...

My passions are parallel with good emotions, positive energy, so for someone to be passionate about something-yet angry? in that is puzzling...

I wouldn't like the feeling of not having the choice(s)...maybe that is the hard bit?

I love my life and choices very much.


meno said...

lisa, you have a restaurant? That's cool. I am passionate about eating. :) But seriously, you are right. I just wonder about it because i appear to have no passions, and i wonder if i ever will, or if i suppress them because of fear.

mamalujo, tell me why you say that. What's wrong with being reasonably happy? I'm asking that sincerely, because that's how i feel.

mcewen, yes, my obsevation of these conversations is that these people are not made happy at all by their passions.

cheesy, if you want to climb those rocks, you are braver than i. I work pretty hard to make sure that i keep my emotions under control. When they do burst out it's ugly and i feel ashamed.

cagey, "And it didn't last." That seems common, sadly.

daphne, you do not sound flaky, well, not any more than the rest of us at least. It sounds like your passion brings you joy, along with the frustration.

jen, yes, it does. You know what is making me angry these days? Angry enough that i am goung to get off my ass and figure out what i can do about it? Health care. i could go on about that, but i'm sure you can imagine. So i will use that anger, like you do. I can only hope to have even half the effectiveness that you do.

princess, i have remained committed through rough going. I always identified that as stubborness and honor, rather than passion. Maybe i am passionate about those things.

anon, Sounds familiar, when i was younger i did too. I try not to allow it anymore because it hurts me.

marsha, what makes you say that? I am curious. I mean, i think i can see what you mean, but i'm not sure.

ttq, you need to move here, you can be unhappy and therefore happy alot.

ms. chica, maybe a post? I would like to hear your thoughts.

chani, god, me too! I will have to think about the purpose part.

qt, what if bailing is the best option, in the long run? As we know it can be.

biscotto, i would call that committment too. I will have to think about this, as i tend to shy away from excess enthusiasm.

bob, or maybe the ability to let go of it when you need to before you explode.

dick, I agree, it is interesting. I do wonder how realistic our expectations of happiness are. It's like our lives are a failure without it. But that can't be true.

deb, your comment made me think of someone i know who i think has a passion for anger. That's always her first response to any difficulty. Then, later, she can calm down and get real. I wonder if she would like to give it up.

u-u, that is what i was thinking. This is obviously not working for her, so it might be time to reconsider that path.

flutter, i think you lost me, but that's not uncommon. Or maybe from when things don't proceed with the passion as expected and needed.

lu, i think it is, at least for me. That's a cute story.

Joan said...

Passion continually comes up in my conversations with my hubby. His passion wraps itself around his golfing while he claims I have no passion for anything. And, quite frankly, he's absolutely correct. While my emotions may exhibit themselves in tremendous highs and lows, nothing in my life stirs any deep seated passion. Perhaps someday I will find the passion within.

luckyzmom said...

I think that you must be passionate about blogging.

"Passion is the emotion of feeling very strongly about a subject or person", according to Wikpedia, "disambiguation". I too don't know what I am trying to say here.

Lynn said...

For some people, passion borders on obsession. For others, they can be passionate about something yet not obsess about it. Ideally even passion occurs with moderation.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

In the cases you cite, it doesn't sound as much like a passion as an obligation, especially the one who volunteers for her church.

It may be SOMEBODY"s passion, but not necessarily that of the one doing the work.

My definition of passion would be something that one loves so much that she would do it no matter what, with or without payment, because it's a true vocation.

Marshamlow said...

about my adhd comment. I was thinking about people from history who had a lot of passion and that passion changed the world. Like Sir Issac Newton, he would forget to eat, go without sleep, had few friends, he would just work toward a solution to a problem and that single minded purpose resulted in the achievement of great things. Not everyone would be happy living life in this way. But, was he happy? Perhaps some people define happiness differently. But, if Newton were entering an American kindergarten today, with that personality would he not be labeled as having ADD or ADHD? Not that those neurological problems are not real but I am not sure it is always a good thing for people to be molded into the exact same box.

meno said...

pam, i know, i feel puzzled too. Maybe i'll ask them about it next time i see them.

joan, That sounds like me. My husband used to accuse me of having no passions in life. He doesn't do that anymore.

luckyzmom, hmmm, it is a lot of fun! "disambiguation?" That's 6 syllables, cool.

lynn, interesting idea. How to moderate passion?

hearts, that's what i was thinking. I like your definition.

marsha,ah, i see what you mean. I wonder what would have happened if he had been raised in this age of medication.

amusing said...

I don't think I'd make enough money working at a job in any of the areas I feel passionate about. So I'll express the passion in other ways -- writing, volunteering, art on the side, etc.

I suspect passion is an underground river you don't always see, but it's there.

I suspect it is somewhat like laughter -- bursts are good, but to feel it all the time would lead to madness.

And to expect constant happiness (fueled by doing something one is passionate about) is unrealistic I think. Ups and downs is just how life works.

People who work in nonprofits have the highest rate of burnout. Why? They don't have the resources to do what they feel needs to be done. They don't earn (for doing good work for the world) what people in the corporate realm make (for doing things that sometimes, but don't always make the world a better place). Passion can work wonders, but also slowly empty the soul.

Mother of Invention said...

I don't personally believe it is a passion unless it somehow gives rise to some joy or at least intense satisfaction that you do whatever it is you are doing.
A passion can be stressful or perhaps result from having been angry at one time about some aspect of it, but if you truly do it with passion, I have a hard time thinking you don't actually get something positive from it. (According to my interpretation of passion anyway)

Mermaid Melanie said...

huh. well, i prefer happiness myself. I see everything as a choice, so if they are choosing to be frustrated by their "passion" it will seem like anger when spoken of.

happiness is NOT over rated. maybe not appreciated as deeply as it could be by some.

Mother of Invention said...

This is an e-mail from a Philosophy source (Zaadz) Very cool..they make me think...I get each this today!

"Pas-sion (noun). Boundless enthusiasm"

~ American Heritage Dictionary

This week we're going to take a quick look at one of my favorite creativity teachers--Michael Gelb.

Today's question: What makes Chess Grandmasters so grand?


What Makes Chess Grandmasters So Grand?
Michael Gelb talks about the research done on chess grandmasters, chess masters, and chess experts in his tape Creative Genius. It’s fascinating.

First, a little background: a chess master is so good that he can beat a room full of 25 chess experts—at one time!! A chess grandmaster is so good that he can beat a room full of 25 chess masters at one time!

The researchers wanted to know what made chess grandmasters grandmasters. Was it superior IQ? Better memory? Better logic?

What they discovered was that the chess masters and grandmasters were, in fact, significantly more intelligent with significantly better memories, etc. than the chess experts. However, there was no significant difference between the grandmaster and the chessmasters. They were, in essence, equally brilliant.

What then, distinguished the grandmasters and allowed them to so handily beat the masters if they had essentially the same intellectual capacity?


The grandmasters were more passionate about chess. They loved it so much that they were always thinking about it--they lived, breathed, and ate chess!...leading to a level of excellence that was far superior to any other players in the world.

What are you most passionate about? Of what will you be a grandmaster?

My guess: The two are probably the same thing...

Resources to check out:
Michael Gelb's Creative Genius: How to Sharpen and Intensify Your Mind Power tape is definitely worth listening to. Why not learn something about how your brain works and how to optimize your creativity on your way to work? You can buy the tape here.

Here's to our creative genius!

Today's question: Of what will you be a "Grandmaster"?