Saturday, February 26, 2011

what others have to say about passion

The month is winding down, and I was sitting here thinking about what I was going to write for March -- which has now been altered a little from its previous fart-like phrasing (air, space, wind, release) to Surrender. And I realized that I wasn't giving Passion its full due.

Sorry, Passion. Won't do it again.

I found a number of famous people talking about passion, and thought some of them were particularly interesting.

Like Cicero:
“He only employs his passion who can make no use of his reason.”

Or my good friend T. Alan Armstrong*
“If there is no passion in your life, then have you really lived? Find your passion, whatever it may be. Become it, and let it become you and you will find great things happen FOR you, TO you and BECAUSE of you."

“There is no end. There is no beginning. There is only the passion of life.”

Ye Olde Proverb:
“Our passions are the winds that propel our vessel. Our reason is the pilot that steers her. Without winds the vessel would not move and without a pilot she would be lost.”

Ben Franklin:
“If passion drives you, let reason hold the reins.”

D.H. Lawrence:
“Be still when you have nothing to say; when genuine passion moves you, say what you've got to say, and say it hot.”

“Love without passion is dreary; passion without love is horrific.”

Fran├žois de la Rochefoucauld:
“If we resist our passions, it is more through their weakness than from our strength.”

And my favorite, Joss Whedon:
“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.”

I love the way so many of them contrast reason with passion and point out how easy it is to be overwhelmed by passion, or driven by it. At the same time, many of these quotes also speak to our tendency to ignore passion or leave it behind. As if passion is an all-or-nothing debate. Either you're a rational person or a passionate person, and while there's a desirable blend of both, few seem to master it.

Back when I was acting, there was a side of me that was truly a passionate artist, who acted as a craft and an art form and for whom the time, effort, blood, sweat, and tears was all part of the deal. And there was also a part of me that recognized that I wanted to make a living at it, so I had to be more rational, more balanced, and live more with my brain than with my heart.

I had a conversation with my father around that time about theatre as a business, and he talked about investments and equity and return on investment and I told him the thing that would keep theatre from being a business the way, say, publishing or manufacturing is a business is the passion of the people involved. Most actors will work for free. Some will even pay you to let them work. There is a heart to that community that is missing (in my personal experience) in others. So while there is truly a rational side to any art, I would argue that most of it is about passion.

But unlike Cicero, I think that people who use their passion AND their reason are in the best shape. It's like the kiss quote -- not enough passion and reason is dull, not enough reason and passion is too much.

*yeah, I have no idea who he is.

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