Recently, I was having a conversation in which the other person was describing to me a creative activity of hers, which she felt passionate about. After listening to this woman talk with such obvious enthusiasm about her “passion”, I came away wondering whether there is anything that I feel so passionate about, if at all.
Hmmm. Struggling to answer that one. Time for a blog post to help me bottom this one out.
Firstly, what does it really mean to feel passionate about something? Is it a good or a bad thing? What does it say about you if you don’t feel passionate about anything?
Some dictionary definitions of the word “passionate” are:-
“having, showing, or caused by strong feelings or beliefs” and
“intense, impassioned, ardent, fervent, vehement.”
I’ll be honest – I get a bit worked up and shout at the telly when politicians come on and peddle their rubbish (in my opinion), but it’s short lived. That’s not the sort of thing I have in mind. What I’m trying to get to are the one or more things I go back to, over and over again, because they engender in me the feelings defined above.
In my 30s, I think I felt strongly (passionately?) about travel and exploring foreign countries and their cultures. With eager anticipation, I would buy maps and guide books, which I would then pore over for months before my holiday. I’d keep a travel log and then, on returning home, would bore everyone with my holiday photos and souvenirs, wishing myself back to those far-flung places. I still love travel and travel planning, but don’t get quite as excited about it as I used to. Why is that? Is it me, or do passions come and go? Should you feel as intensely about something, your whole life through, in order for it to count as a passion?
For the past 15 years or so, since I have lived in a house with a garden, I have developed a growing interest in plants, shrubs, flowers and trees. I love their colour, shapes, textures, scent and movement. I read about them, watch lots of gardening programmes on TV and visit them, whenever possible. Only this weekend, I spent several happy hours poking around beautiful local gardens opened to the public under the National Gardens Scheme (see photos below). Dodgy back permitting, I like to spend time in my own garden, trying, but failing, to create an attractive ensemble. My garden’s only small, though, and I don’t want to be gardening to the exclusion of all else. So, could I be said to be “passionate” about gardening?
If there’s anything about which I could be said to be passionate, it’s literature, reading and words. I’ve had my nose in a book pretty much every day since I learned to read. I can’t imagine life without a book(s) to read. I salivate at the thought of all those books yet to be read. I need a day or two to come down from somewhere, after finishing a good book. Does that qualify as being passionate?
Does any of this matter? Well I feel that a life lived with intensity sounds better than a life lived without, on the assumption that we’re only here once. That said, we are the product of our genes and experience which may combine to moderate some of us more than others, whether we like it or not. Perhaps too much intensity is a bad thing. Witness the struggles of Sylvia Plath, Virginia Woolf and Vincent Van Gogh. Their artistic vehemence did not bring them happiness or contentment. We also know that passionately held beliefs can lead to bad actions, as we see every day.
So is it important or not to be passionate? What’s wrong with being on a level about everything? Perhaps the best way is to have intensity, with moderation? Good luck with that one.
Do you know what? I think I’ll rejoice in my books and my garden and not worry about the rest.