Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Passion

Passion- that's what we want. That's what we're all looking for. Not health, happiness, love, life; none of those alone. What encompasses all of those or makes up for the lack of them is passion.

Passion is about living. Life is fierce, passion for life is a blessing. Every true feeling is inspired by some kind of passion; fierce and furious, the foundation for everything else that is to come.

This doesn't necessarily mean that one is hot-headed and outspoken. There are people who spends their lives quietly passionate, expending their energies in ways that don't attract as much attention. But they care and this is what separates them from the millions of others in the world. It's their love, their devotion, their care, their desire. I love desire. To desire is a gift, as is to be passionate.

When we are young, we are all passionate. Inflamed with passion, believing in our ideas and opinions, our views, our love, whatever it may be. We live simply to express through our being, our lives, all that is us- all our love, all our beauty, whatever flames within us and cuts through to the core. When you meet us, you may leave frustrated or angry, but we will have made an impression. And it's because of our passion.

I think, then, that possibly the worst handicap- the cruelty of all cruelties- is to be robbed of that passion, to sit silent, indifferent, not, in other words, to care. Depression, as it is described, is just this silent apathy; the depressed person is the one who lacks the ability to force himself to desire, to desire to awaken in the morning, to do the things that once made him happy, even to argue, to engage in meaningful and desperate conversation. Depression is a kind of passiveness, or at least that is how it is portrayed, but what is worse is that it is uncontrolled. I cannot "turn off" the passiveness as it were, I can only watch it as though I am disconnected, detached.

A lot of people speak about this- disconnect, detachment, and what it means. They will reference "our generation" above other generations, or suggest all kinds of reasons. I think that any disconnect on our part stems in part from fear. For example, to address Israel. To be passionate and to care about everyone is to be hurt time and time again. And for every one who dies there is a blow, cruel and harsh and heartrending, and there is doubt, and you cry out to God because you don't understand how He could allow the deaths. And for every death there is a person, an actual person who was living and breathing only moment ago, who has now passed away, shattering the lives of others as he did so. To be passionate is to care about these people, and so it is to suffer, empathically, for each one of them and all that he has been robbed of.

Therefore, to be passionate is above all things to feel. To feel every slight, every hurt, every joy and every moment as though it in itself were integral, important above all else. Even the most mundane things- the meal around the table, the spaghetti on the plate- these, too, must be felt, accepted, seen as important and necessary. Life includes everything, not just the exciting or the romantic. We are like children, curious and fascinated and frustrated by our inability to do the things we wish to do, but we haven't given up hope on anything- on the world- on anyone, because we still believe in ourselves.

Children don't doubt themselves. It's adults who instill the doubt. A child will keep on trying to walk even though he's fallen down hundreds of times; he will continue to try to lift something that is too heavy for him because he believes in himself. It's a kind of passion, the passion of belief. And so I think passion is part of religion as well. This can be stretched or pushed in any direction- for example, what is fundamentalism if not a passion for oneself at the expense of others? Many have admired, in a twisted way, the way in which many Palestinians care for the land of Israel- care so much that they will kill themselves and their children in terrorist attacks if they believe they will get it back.

Of course, however, this passion is destructive, as passion can be, terrible and awful, a whirlwind and a storm. Destructive passion can serve a purpose, if it serves to destroy AND to rebuild, but to merely destroy, to take the lives of others- for this one is cursed, for this one is damned.

In the eyes of someone caught within a frail and twisted body you may still see a heady light, something fervent and beautiful- and that is passion. What is the passion for? Passion for learning, or for singing, for dance, for God, for anything and anyone. Constructive passion transforms the person because you have been placed in the role of Creator. One can only create out of passion, out of desire to form new things, to begin anew.

We want to share passion, to transfer it to others, to make it contagious like a strong, heady, wine, glowing in our veins, hard and wiry and ropy in our muscles. This is what makes us live. Take away our cause, our ideals, our ideas, our passion, and we are no longer anything- we are shells, dead, dying. Even victims can be passionate, when they fight against their captors or symbolically rebel. We feel pity for those who lose their passion, but we feel admiration for those who persist.

Do you notice that Holocaust movies play to two types of audiences? There's the kind of Holocaust movie that shows you the victims, dejected, bald, unhappy, tortured, and you feel for them a vast and great sorrow and pity, even fear because you could have been them. But then there's the kind of Holocaust movie that is all about passion- the idea of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, for example, the few fighting against the many, or Schindler saving men while at the same time seemingly destroying himself. Oh, you may not see fire, as it were, in Schindler, but it is a cold fire, a cold resolve to do what he would- because it gave him amusement, or workers, whatever the reason, there is still passion embedded there.

The Passion of the Christ is successful as a movie not because of the mere victimization of Jesus- which is brutal and violent and ugly, as are his oppressors and the cruel, terrible Pharisees portrayed there- but because of the enemy whom Jesus is pitted against, Satan. Satan is terrible and cruel, he taunts Jesus and states that Jesus will never be able to save his people, one man cannot possibly atone for an entire people's sins. Satan walks amongst the Pharisees and spits at Jesus; he torments Judas. It is the fact that Jesus is struggling for his people...that he persists in the face of Satan and all the cruelty that is shown him...that is earth-shattering. This kind of sacrifice is for a cause, an idea, and thus passion is evoked.

All the most dynamic characters in the Bible have been men of passion. Moses, arguing with God, fighting for his people, issuing ultimatums, pleading for his sister. Abraham, destroying his father's idols, leaving his people's way of life, setting out for a new country, lying to Pharoah to save his life. Job, issuing challenges to God, wishing He could hear him speak, facing down those who attempt to console and instead lambaste him. Jeremiah, tormented by his people and by God, seemingly adrift, trying to contain his prophecy but feeling it as fire in his bones, forced to speak and still having the compassion to wail over his city and the very people who hurt him so.

Men of passion, these are the men of our Bible; the men who fascinate us. Some characters are more dynamic than others, some seem more alive, more interesting. "Ka'nai" is applied to Pinchas, a man of passion, a zealot, also to Elijah but Elijah is reprimanded because he, unlike Jeremiah, has difficulty reconciling himself to his people when they do not heed him.

Passion, passion, all is passion....until we die and crumble into dust, we are spurred on, egged on, driven, only through passion.

9 comments:

Jewish Atheist said...

Yes! That's why I started my new blog. :-)

DTC said...

Hence the new title of your blog:

"The Passion of the Chana"

(minus Mel Gibson, of course, and all of the violence.)

Jeremayakovka said...

A drawing instructor said something very simple to me once. He said it to the whole class, of course, but it was one of those verbal slaps that catch you off guard, that make you stare straight ahead while self-consciously hoping no one notices you scrambling to focus your thinking.... He said: "Are you going to be an echo -- or a sound?"

Your post reminds me of that.

Ezzie said...

Brilliant post. I don't know if you've ever experienced any form of depression or not, but the emptiness felt - and lack of desire to do anything at all - merely deepens the feelings (or lack thereof), furthering a downward spiral which is so difficult to escape from. Meanwhile, misplaced passion leads to what is likely the other most terrible emotion, that of anger/hate.

On a somewhat related note, something you'd enjoy...

When we are young, we are all passionate. Inflamed with passion, believing in our ideas and opinions, our views, our love, whatever it may be. We live simply to express through our being, our lives, all that is us- all our love, all our beauty, whatever flames within us and cuts through to the core. When you meet us, you may leave frustrated or angry, but we will have made an impression. And it's because of our passion.

Children don't doubt themselves. It's adults who instill the doubt. A child will keep on trying to walk even though he's fallen down hundreds of times; he will continue to try to lift something that is too heavy for him because he believes in himself. It's a kind of passion, the passion of belief.


Ken Robinson gave a presentation at the TED 2006 conference about education. You'd love it, based on what you wrote in this post and what you've written and discussed in the past. It's on Google Video - just search for TED 2006.

jewish philosopher said...

Is passion the same as love?

rabbi neil fleischmann said...

That was a passonate piece. I wonder (seriously) about if passion counts if it is passionate empathy, passionate ambivalence, passionate seeing of truth in different places. It seems to me that passon is usually associated with taking one view in a do or die kind of way.

Lvnsm27 said...

wow great piece. Yep we deffinately need passion to really experience life.

daaty said...

And the passion for what is happening in Israel now?

The Hedyot said...

Nice thoughts, except for the part where you misunderstand the word passion as its used when referring to Christ. There it means something else. See defintion 11 here for the proper understanding.

I won't act too cocky about it since I used to make the same mistake.