Passion burns. Love hurts. And in the immortal words of the J Geils Band, “love stinks.” Limiting the topic of passion to love would portray an unfortunate falseness, though certainly the two terms are often interchangeable. We speak of having a passion for something almost in the same breath as declaring we love it. That so many of us do not have the gift of a poet limits our word choices, but it does not limit the underlying feeling. Our passions, in as much as our frailties, perhaps more so, define the scope of our lives.
Situations that turn otherwise sane people into fever-eyed imps, entice us in our fantasies and are often emulated in our media. The embrace of passionate intention is done despite of, perhaps even because of, the potential for and poetically narrated descent into, pain and heartache. I’ve sat on those shores, watching the tide go out, wanting to stretch my arms and hold in the ocean, knowing even as I attempted it the hopes and aspirations would seep from between my fingers and flow past the curve of my embrace. I’m not here even talking of love’s loss, though that has happened, but the similar feeling of futility having followed a dream of employment and the proverbial rug pulled out from under. I’m hardly alone in this experience, either of them. Within five years, half of all new businesses will have failed. Despite the falsity of the claim that half of all marriages end in divorce, the stat is so ubiquitous it has reached cult status for truth. For clarification, it should be noted that as of 2002, the rate of divorce is around 33% but only after having been married for ten years.
These stats indicate a shelf-life of sorts for passion. It sustains us only for so long, before circumstances often out of our control hurtle us in another direction. This is, clearly, a simplification of social experiences, but the information still paints a picture of eventual undeniable suffering. Despite this, we push forward valiantly anyway. Why?
Are we all like the berserker of legend, leaping madly into a field of our passions, only to succumb to the pressures of the battlefield that is life? Are we all like whirling dervishes, arms outstretched to extend the power of our desire into the chaos of existence, only to eventually fall down from an emotionally riotous cessation of bodily function? From the foolishness of youth’s embrace of first love, to the entrepreneur who ends his life once having had his dreams crumble around him or in some circumstances felt the brush of success, to the dizzying display of vengeful madness in divorce, all these experiences and more point to the answer of those questions as being a resounding “YES!”
Life cries out to be embraced by our lives. We can be a dispassionate lump, but to maintain such a disposition often requires almost as much fervor as the person leaping about with seeming abandon. The vast numbers of our religious creations speak not to an underlying truth, but to the very human desire to form a coherent narrative of nature’s whim. The varied and constantly evolving forms of romantic attachment speak not to a diminished quality of love, but the deeply passionate belief that love chaffs at artificial boundaries. The endeavors of entrepreneurs and scientists speak not to the frailty of our existential understanding, but the soulful drive to shape out of disparate parts something that will last beyond our individual lives.
The constantly shifting variables in our interconnected universe, combined with the fleeting nature of our emotional states, make passion an affair of that which is profoundly human. From John Green, in The Fault of Our Stars:
“I believe the universe wants to be noticed. I think the universe is inprobably biased toward the consciousness, that it rewards intelligence in part because the universe enjoys its elegance being observed. And who am I, living in the middle of history, to tell the universe that it-or my observation of it-is temporary?”
Hurt and heartache may go with passion and love like interlocked genetic matrices of lived experience, and the acknowledgment of such should never stop us from continuing the barrel-run of our lives. As we are the universe thinking of itself, so it is too our elegance being observed in every pursuit of that which will live on beyond us.
© David Teachout