Passion – an interesting word. Printed on an advertisement for the Lyric Opera of Chicago, the word suggests that people should follow their passion and subscribe to the opera series. That’s what passionate people would do, of course.
But it makes me wonder about the word, and it makes me question if I truly have anything I am passionate about. The Oxford English Dictionary’s first definition says passion is a strong and barely controllable emotion. That doesn’t fit me. I’m not passionate about politics, sports, religion, not in that sense of the word.
In this election year, we are surrounded by passionate people expressing their strong and barely controllable emotional support for one candidate or another. And I’m not really sure I want to be so passionate. I think I have always associated passion with a fanaticism that seems to include an exclusion clause that makes it impossible to be passionate about something and yet accept others who might not share the passion.
It’s like belonging to a club that believes our members are right and yours are wrong. Members of the National Rifle Association are passionate about their rights to bear arms, and if you don’t agree, you must be anti-American. Right wing religious fanatics are passionate about their righteousness, and if you don’t agree, you’re going to Hell. There are many more examples of passion in various cultures of this country and the world. It is likely that the culture wars we experience are a direct result of such fanatic passion.
So maybe it’s OK for me not to be passionate. I truly want the world to solve its problems. I truly want the divisiveness to end. I truly want us to elect a president who can help make that happen. But not passionately, not fanatically. We can get nowhere when we exclude, when we hate those who have opposing views. As Ken Wilber says in his book, Trump and the Post-Truth World, “a country in which 50 percent of the population flat out hates the other 50 percent is not a country that can move forward with any sort of grace, dignity, and integrity.”
Huh! Maybe I do passionately want those qualities to be an integral part of our government. Maybe I do passionately want those qualities to be an integral part of all aspects of our lives. But not if I have to hate you to make it happen…