All of us are so passionate about following our passions that we hardly notice passion itself degrading from one of the most personal, heartfelt and enriching emotions into a ‘success-mantra’ imposed on us by society.
The meaning of passion has been a subject to change over centuries but its true essence, which is crucial for creating a meaningful life, has remained the same over the course of time. Although our current understanding of the word is something very positive and worth experiencing, it is merely a minuscule fragment of the huge potential it has to enrich our lives.
Passion realized is truly a game-changer.
The popular idea of passion
Looking backwards, I remember a point in life where I felt guilty for not knowing what my passion was. High school had ended and everyone wanted to know what I would do with my life. Just like every other young adult of my age, I had no idea (I still don’t, for that matter). But it wasn’t that difficult, all I had to do was to find my passion and dedicate the rest of my life to it, simple enough, wasn’t it?
Inspirational leaders, Bloggers, all kinds of media and basically everyone we turn to for advice, portray passion as something to be found. It seems as if passion is a buried treasure which we have to discover.
The Internet is full of ’11 ways to find your ‘true’ passion’ type of posts and there are way too many people out there ready to help you find your passion. For a brief moment, it almost seems as if the world is more interested in finding your passion than you are. But there is a downside to it, like the guilt I used to carry around or the ‘maybe there is something wrong with me’ thought playing at the back of my mind (and I know there are others who feel that way).
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying doing what you enjoy isn’t correct; but being passionate isn’t just about having job satisfaction and enjoying life, instead, it is one of the most rich and fulfilling experiences one can ever have.
The evolution of passion
We refer to passion as something synonymous to enthusiasm or zeal, but it hasn’t been the same always. Etymologically speaking, the word ‘passion’ was derived from Latin and was first used to describe the suffering of Christ. Yes, passion meant suffering, Jesus’s suffering, specifically. After Jesus’s death, the use of passion was extended to express the sufferings of saints and martyrs and then to express suffering entirely. Later on, thanks to numerous poets and writers, passion was being used as an expression to describe love. This use of passion was then extended to refer to ‘desire’ in general. You must be familiar with statements like ‘your passions will consume you’ and such. And finally, passion was used to refer to a ‘strong and barely controllable emotion’,which is also the current definition for passion that we can stick to.
I find it fascinating to study the etymological evolution of words. Studying language is almost equivalent to studying the minds of the people who use it, because we only express who we are. Passion has evolved over time because our sense of it has drastically evolved.
The different meanings of passions may appear distinct and unrelated, but there is an underlying connection. I call it the essence of passion.
Passion and meaning
The essence of passion is, meaning.
You cannot be passionate about something you don’t find meaningful. And if you spend enough time with this idea, you’ll understand that passion is what you feel when you realize some meaning in your life.
(Didn’t make any sense? No problem.)
Take Jesus Christ, for instance. His suffering was originally recognized as passion, but I believe there is more to passion than just being a synonym. His suffering wasn’t ordinary, but it had some purpose to serve. All that he underwent wasn’t a waste but indeed meaningful to him and others, because by his death, mankind would be saved from sin and evil.
The sufferings of the saints and martyrs is again called passion because it has meaning too. The martyrs/saints who suffer and even die serving their countries/Gods consider it a great honor. To them, their suffering isn’t futile but is a medium of expressing their love and obedience towards whatever it is that they serve. The fact that people suffer for something other than themselves implies that they live for something beyond and above them. Suffering endured for someone/something else, is, after all, meaningful.
Further on, we observe passion being used in reference with suffering in general. Yes, you guessed it right! Suffering in itself is meaningful! Victor Frankl, in his (amazing) book Man’s search for meaning describes that it is always possible for one to create meaning out of their lives, independent of their circumstances. It is crucial to understand that Frankl doesn’t say that suffering is meaningful (I know I said that before, which is why I’m clarifying) but he say that there is room for creating meaning amidst suffering. According to Frankl, meaning isn’t something inherently present in life, instead, something one must strive to create.
(Frankl’s book is amazing, I recommend you give it a read.)
And love, how could we forget love? Love is at the pinnacle of human experience. It’s the one thing everyone needs, it’s our driving force, our motivation. Inanimate objects and abstract ideas may be gratifying, but they can never replace the sense of peace and fulfillment that comes from engaging in human interaction. Getting along with people and loving them gives us an opportunity to escape the futility of our lives by creating something meaningful (to us) i.e. Human Connections. Love is the most passionate experience because it is the most meaningful one.
I hope you understand by now that passion arises from the manifestation of meaning, which further implies that if you are passionate about something, you have found meaning in it. (And that is really an achievement, no seriously, it is. So, congratulations!)
Passion and meaning are inseparable, which is why passion isn’t just about finding an activity that you can’t put down but about experiencing an irreplaceable sense of fulfillment that arises from engaging into something we find meaningful.
Passion is that delicate, invisible bridge of intimacy that connects our soul with all the things that appeal to it.
It is passion that compels us to pause and smell the roses rather than just passing by, meaning that it makes us more alive and thus, more human, because without it, we would be beasts striving for survival.
“Passion, it lies in all of us, sleeping… waiting… and though unwanted… unbidden… it will stir… open its jaws and howl. It speaks to us… guides us… passion rules us all, and we obey. What other choice do we have? Passion is the source of our finest moments. The joy of love… the clarity of hatred… and the ecstasy of grief. It hurts sometimes more than we can bear. If we could live without passion maybe we’d know some kind of peace… but we would be hollow… Empty rooms shuttered and dank. Without passion we’d be truly dead.” — Joss Whedon
More ideas on passion
Passion doesn’t discriminate.
(Not in an Anti-racist sense.)
But passion doesn’t discriminate between emotions.
It offers happiness just as much as it imparts sorrow. The things we are passionate about don’t always make us happy.
Jesus is again, the perfect example. Who likes to be nailed on a cross? His death wasn’t pleasant but there was passion involved in it.
Being rejected doesn’t make anyone happy, but the lover finds passion in it. In fact, unrequited love feels more passionate because it offers a sense for victory and fulfillment. This arises from the idea that that the lover chooses to love even when there is nothing to expect in return.
On a spectrum stretching from a tiny spark of joy to devastating self-destructive depression, passion cannot find it’s place. Instead, it relates to different points on the spectrum, at different times, depending on the individual and the circumstances.
Another striking fact about passion is that we desperately need it.
Our minds crave to feel, to be sensitized and used. There isn’t anything scarier that being emotionally cold. We would rather choose to be upset, disappointed and rejected than being bland, empty and emotionless. Normally we are too busy “feeling” stuff that we fail to notice how hard it must be to not feel at all.
Passion becomes our savior in such situations. The best way to not run out of things to feel about, is to be passionate about something. Passion not just keeps us occupied but gives us a strong sense of attachment and involvement with whatever we are passionate about.
“I want to know what passion is. I want to feel something strongly.” ― Aldous Huxley
That is why I believe that we need Passion more than Happiness.
(I know, weird idea, but sit with it.)
On a side note….
What happens when we extend the ‘passion-meaning’ idea to the modern understanding of passion? Well, this….
Finding your passion, is discovering and doing something that is meaningful to you even if it doesn’t make you happy all the time. Because, it won’t.
(Counter-intuitive, I know.)
How to find your passion?
(The part everyone’s been waiting for, right?)
That’s very simple actually. You need to do certain things in the right order to get there.
First you need to meditate for a week, followed by a year of eating nothing but boiled potatoes and then, finally, embrace generosity by donating your left kidney to a government hospital. That’s it! Your job is done.
It’s a proven method, millions of people have tried it and successfully found their passion.
Or maybe it is another way of saying, how in the world would I know?
What I mean is, it’s your life, your passion. You would know yourself better that anyone else does, which is why, only you can answer that question. You need not rely on strangers over the internet to help you figure out your life; self-discovery is a beautiful journey to embark upon.
(Good luck with finding your passion, and that is the closest I can get on a cliched ‘how to find your passion post’, yeah.)
One final thing…..
I’ve noticed that our culture is too passionate about passion, but that doesn’t mean we let it dictate what it means to us.
The idea that you first need to find “something magical” and then, do it for the rest of your lives, isn’t wrong, it’s fine, but sounds limiting to me.
I’m not against the whole passion-advice, but, then again, I do not strongly resonate with it. In my opinion, most people are multi-passionate, who doesn’t like options? Why be passionate about a single thing when you could love more than one? Don’t confine yourself to one thing. Go explore, do all of it, exhaust yourself.
The people who have multiple interests/talents are called multipotentialites. In her ted talk (the one below, obviously), Emilie Wapnic not just explores what it feels to be a multipotentialite, but also uncovers the three superpowers of multipotentialites. This one is worth your time.
Finally, I wanted to advise you to find your passion and follow it, but no, I won’t.
Given the fact that you are human implies that you are already passionate about too many things. This is because life itself, inclusive of all it’s elements, is so full of possibilities, that it is next to impossible to not feel passion. You could actually spend your whole lives being passionate about something new every day and yet, not run out of options. The world is full of beautiful things, activities and people that you can love, enjoy and find meaning with. In other words, there are a lot of things out there waiting to be your next passion. (And you’re here, busy reading a blog, seriously?)
So, go out there and dive and float and drown yourself entirely in passion, because life is just too precious to be spent otherwise.
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Keep up the awesomeness, thank you for reading 🙂