We praise great passion in both art and love, swooning at the tragic romanticism of Romeo and Juliet, praising van Gogh’s Starry Night, feeling our souls rise to the sounds of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. In doing so, we marvel at the commitment those artists made to their projects.
And many of us adore the romantic comedy, which might not be quite as popular as it once was, but which advances the notion that we can find that perfect someone and fight through numerous obstacles to achieve transcendent happiness with our soulmate.
Everyone admires Leonardo da Vinci, who worked on the Mona Lisa for years, possibly as many as 14, and still left it unfinished. We celebrate Bach, Chopin and Mozart, who all contributed greatly to the world of music and demonstrated enormous passion for their work.
Yet, ultimately, I submit that great passion is a bad thing. Uncontrolled passion in one area, however uplifting, lends itself to uncontrolled passion in other less desirable areas. The passionate artist often has a temper and is always overly emotional.
I realize that many people disagree. What, they ask, would the world be like without all these treasures? Well, some of those treasures certainly wouldn’t exist. Maybe most of them wouldn’t. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Consider those who become obsessed by art or music or comic books or whatever. They are feeding their emotions, nurturing them, dispelling logic and self-control, weakening their ability to fend off explosive outbursts of negative thought.
Passion is actually a lack of self-control. And self-control is like a muscle. If you don’t exercise it, if you don’t build it up, it will fail you when you need it most. And you will always need it at some point. No passion lasts forever.
Not even great loves last forever. They may last decades, but eventually, something will come along – a death or a loss somewhere that leaves you devoid of the object of your passion. And now you fall apart because you have not learned to control your passion.
Am I saying you should never be emotional? Absolutely not. Nor am I saying that you can never let your emotions run free. Of course you can. Briefly. We are emotional creatures and to deny that fact is to be guilty of a different kind of passion – self-delusional Spockian logic.
But wallowing in great joy or great sorrow diminishes us, renders us into something less than the animals we like to believe we’re superior to – the apes and lions and elephants who all understand instinctively that caring too much about something amounts to a death sentence.
Delight in the joys of life. Cry when you experience great loss, and rage at injustice. But remember that these should all be transitory emotions. At the end of the day, you should return to contentment at what is. Just be.