The Passion(s)

The @bootsnall prompt for April 5 (hey, no one ever claimed I was prompt with the prompts) was for bloggers to write about what their passions are, aside from travel.

Tongue in cheek, then, to call today’s post The Passion, at the tail end of the Easter weekend. Or perhaps just cheeky. Not meant to offend, but rather a play on words:

I always wondered why the saddest thing in Christianity was referred to as the Passion. Doesn’t passion mean something you love or care about deeply? Fever and fervour for something or someone?

Much like people, there is a lot to learn about words by knowing where they come from. The Latin root of “passion” means “to suffer” (ah, now the biblical reference makes sense).

After some consideration, this idea of “passion” as “suffering” isn’t so far off the mark. The Buddhists would posit that our attachments are the source of our suffering, and what things are we more deeply attached to than our passions?

These things are indeed the source of suffering, as when we’re separated from our passions, we can feel lost and in need, or lonesome and in withdrawal. Travel for me is paramount of my passions, both for the aliveness it provides as well as the sense of loss when it’s not present.

But it’s much more than the craving a smoker might get. It’s more about the feeling of “flow” (from Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s book of the same name), of feeling truly alive and present in every moment. Skiiers feel it when they’re racing downhill, musicians feel it when they’re performing on stage and I feel it when I turn a corner to a street I’ve never stepped on and a view I’ve never seen before.

There are a lot of things I love in life: I’m deeply interested in community and how humans connect with each other. I care a lot about the people in my life, my family, friends, colleagues, my partner and our dog. The interactions and connections we build are what keeps us alive as social beings. And I guess in many ways, these same things can create the suffering of “passions”, the pull and draw that tugs at our hearts. Our relationships are both a source of pain and pleasure.

I am passionate about learning and growing, both intellectually and spiritually. At the same time, however, I really envy people who seem to have it all figured out, who are content and settled with the path they’ve chosen. It seems the more I learn the less I know and these pursuits for knowledge and wisdom can be painful ones.

I’m currently passionate about my career. I have poured the last 6 years of my life into building an organization that works on a complex human rights issue (human trafficking) in a complex way (collaboration). It bears the intersections of gender, migration, inequality and labour – it’s a subject fraught with political and moral debate. It’s also a passion in the true sense of suffering and attachment, but also brings me satisfaction and energy.

It is a luxury in this world to have passions, to find things in life to pursue because they please us (as much as they torture us sometimes). There are millions of people who don’t have the time and resources to wonder about the things that drive them. I am grateful to have these passions, even when (or especially as) they are just out of reach, as travel seems to be right now.

There’s no ignoring these things. To turn away from our passions is, bluntly, stupid. If I know what makes me feel most alive and ignore it, I cannot ask for sympathy if my life feels unlived.

“Face your life, its pain, its pleasure, leave no path untaken.” – Neil Gaiman, The Graveyard Book

[If you think it’s strange to conceptualize passion as suffering, just wait for my post on compassion, literally “to suffer with”. That’s some messed up stuff right there.]


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