GIFT AND A CURSE

Passion is grim; entails suffering

Has more to do with willingness to suffer for that which you love.

In Summary
  • You can’t stop passion, or switch it off, tone it down, refrain from it.
  • Not until you feed its insatiable craving by drawing that masterpiece, redefining the industry, writing a book.
Author JK Rowling poses with a copy of her new book 'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows' at the Natural History Museum in London July 20, 2007.
Author JK Rowling poses with a copy of her new book 'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows' at the Natural History Museum in London July 20, 2007.
Image: REUTERS
Passion will move men beyond themselves, beyond their shortcomings, beyond their failures
Joseph Campbell

I was watching this movie, which for the life of me I can’t remember the title, and there was a scene where an old man was talking a young man’s ear off about boxing, and how when he was young he spent every waking moment in the ring. This was a revelation to the younger man because the old man was a recluse, and all anybody in the neighbourhood knew about the old man, other than he never left his apartment, was that he was called Thump.

After the old man finished talking about being a boxer, the young man asked, ‘Is that why they call you Thump… coz you hit hard?’

‘No,’ said the old man, ‘It’s the sound I made when I hit the canvas.’

 

‘You weren’t good, huh?’ said the young man.

‘I never said I was,’ the old man said, ‘I just loved boxing.’

That’s passion, a word we only half understand.

Here’s what we, society, say passion generally is. It is a strong and barely controllable feeling of excitement for something or for doing something. It is a word that points to that strong emotion you have inside of you, for someone, or something and we say of passionate people that it gives their lives purpose, as their focus is on what can be rather than what is.

But there’s a lot more to passion than this general understanding. Passion is not a hobby or having a dream. It is a compulsion. It is obsession and countless hours of unpaid work. It is steadfastness. It is to brave the storms such that if practising for hours on the guitar makes your fingers bleed, passion says so be it.

So be it as well, passion says to a single unemployed mother writing a novel in cafés for five years only for the book to be rejected by 20-odd publishers before being accepted, which is what happened to JK Rowling and her first Harry Potter novel.

Passion is investment in time, effort, money, blood, tears and sweat. Passion is both loving and hating the thing you’re passionate about because with the obsession, comes an unhealthy need for perfection. And even after all that, passion, most times won’t give you the results you seek just because you love it – like the old man and his boxing and always getting knocked down to the canvas.

You can’t stop passion, or switch it off, tone it down, refrain from it. Not until you feed its insatiable craving by drawing that masterpiece, redefining the industry, writing a book. Passion is a gift and a curse, made all the more worse by its inability to explain itself to those who don’t have it.

This all sounds grim because grim has everything to do with the original meaning of the word passion. You see, passion comes from the Latin word ‘Pati’ which means ‘to suffer’. So in the original sense, passion has less to do with intense love for something and more to do with a willingness to suffer for that which you love.

Once you understand that passion is suffering, then that makes this quote on passion that follows a most profound one, for it applies just as much to suffering.

Passion will move men beyond themselves, beyond their shortcomings, beyond their failures.—Joseph Campbell.