Passion. Also known as our purpose. Our raison d’être. It is what we find ourselves thinking about constantly. What we are seeking. Where is the passion in our careers, our lovers, the cosmos of our lives?
This desire for passion rattles through our minds persistently, keeping us awake at night – staring at the ceiling without sleep and in search of answers. Where could our passions lie? Why have we not found it yet?
To quell our worries, a fable comes to mind. One that tells of a true passion existing. One that will unravel all of our doubts and reveal to us the answers we so painfully seek. Awakening us once and for all from our nihilistic slumber, into a world of happiness and wonder. This quest is one that is ours to take, to ensure the very essence of our existence. For as Chesterton said: :We are perishing not for want of wonders, but for want of wonder.”
Yet this quest for the grail of passion, is one without end. As we meander along an unclear path, we often feel lost. As if we are no closer to finding it than the day before. And we’re right. For the truth is that this quest we have set upon is a veneer, nothing more than a beautiful lie. One we have spent years believing in, and what has it lead us to? Unrealistic expectations. We are taught to find a “passion at first sight.” In an almost Shakespearean way, we grow up in a society that tells us that one day we will encounter a passion across a moonlit room and without any knowledge beforehand: we’ll know that this is the end of the quest. This is it.
In that one moment, true passion has been found. One that we are meant to be with for the rest of our lives. Now let’s ask ourselves how well that turned out for Romeo and Juliet? If it doesn’t apply to love, how can we expect it to apply to passion? Passion requires an honest approach, not a thrown away story of a moment that will never happen. Not as a fire lit across a room that is excited with no knowledge of what it is, but rather within the acquiring of knowledge about what makes the fire burn.
Think of falling in love with a city. When you first arrive in a new place, you may feel entirely overwhelmed by it. Knowing absolutely nothing about where you are, there is excitement. A desire to discover. You explore. Finding the side streets, and getting lost in the winding roads and dizzying array of storefronts. The strangers that surround you as you walk along. Lost in the place you are and yet unafraid of what you may find. Endless hours are spent trying to find the secrets that this city keeps: the unique places that reside within, meant just for you.
If it really is just that fire across a room, you find the joy fades quickly. Yet when it is love, it stems from finding our place within the city. The places where we can be ourselves in our surroundings. It is the used book store, where the philosophy section is in complete disarray. The pub we frequent on our Thursday nights with its Hemingway quote framed behind the bar. The one we are always meaning to ask the bartender about. Yet never quite remember to.
The same can be said for a lover. It is not the unfamiliarity with a stranger but in the familiar that makes it love. It is the 3am conversations over a bottle of wine, the stories revealed in the dead of night. Ours alone, they allow us to see into the depths of their being.
This is the tale of the romantic. Being romantic about passion can be an incredible experience, provided that we are not at the same time hopeless about it. Having preconceived notions about what it will look like, or the form it will take will lead us to nothing but dead ends. It puts passion into a box, and with that our hearts and minds. There ought to be confidence that passion does exist, and in fact it may be as simple as looking around. It is not in a logical, coherent order of steps that lead us to an end. It is the wandering itself. When you find yourself stopping to question the origins of the flowers along the path, or finding joy in the people you meet.
Perhaps even it is when you are staring up at the stars late at night, wondering what causes them to shine as brightly as they do and the spontaneous order they are in. That is where wonder is found. It is gained slowly and gradually over time. Until it is such that our mind becomes restless without it, and our heart feels an absence when it is gone.
If you have not yet found something that draws you, there is only one thing to do. Try new things. Take a basket weaving class, or read a book, or book a flight. Consider changing careers, for something that challenges you. Be willing to accept the fact that it is fine to fall in love, and wake up one day feeling an absence of that love. And to feel compelled towards something new, and to follow that passion through. Whatever is in the unknown, it is only through seeking it that we can come to understand what it means to us, and why it matters.
There has to be a willingness to trust and being unafraid of what you will find. The conviction to say: “yes, I will trust my natural inclinations. I will put the beautiful map of reason on a shelf, and look around to see the love and wonder in every day.” That is how we discover passion as it exists. Not in a mythical fable of finding a promised land at the end of a path, but through our time spent walking the path itself.
Passion exists. It just needs to be noticed. It is through observation and the beautiful, spontaneous order that comprises the lives we live; that it resides in. Through getting to know the unknown, and the ardent feelings that come along with it. Seen in the questions we ask and the answers we seek let us know that the passion across the room may be a lie, but passion itself is not. It is there, waiting to be recognized and known.
All that remains is to relinquish the myth of the quest told to us so long ago, and relish in the passion found in discovery.