The Supremacy of Passion

On the way in to work I was listening to the NPR Podcast Pop Culture and one segment was interviewing two women who wrote the children’s book version of Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth. At one point one of the women was telling a story about a little girl who had gone home from school and unplugged everything but the refrigerator.

“What did the mom think of that?”
“She was slightly annoyed, but it was a funny annoyance. She was so happy that her child was passionate about it. “

It got me to thinking about passion, a word bandied about a lot in modern culture. It seems to be something we want for ourselves and our children. Why would a parent be happy if a child was passionate about something, and value that passion even if it wasn’t something we were passionate about.

According to Oxford passion has two definitions, the second is to me its root. The Passion is the suffering and death of Jesus Christ. It was an act of physical, emotional, and spiritual sacrifice to do something. In the case of Jesus it was to do the most important thing ever done. The salvation of the world was easily worth the pain and suffering so graphically displayed in Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ.

Using passion to describe the first definition – “a strong and barely controllable emotion” – adds a religious connotation to the emotion. Which is one reason some say global warming has become a religion. The other reason is the believers often seem to have a unquestioning faith of something critics believe to be far from absolute fact.

So Why Is So Passion Valued in Modern Culture?

Part of it is the dominance of apathy in our culture. We are awash in not caring. We’ve got all our physical needs more than met and we’ve invested so much of our lives in entertainment till we are bored by everything. Especially the “real” world. Taken to the extreme boredom leads to depression and even suicide.

Passion is the opposite of apathy and we desire it like a drug. It’s something that makes us feel good and that’s all we want.

A poor substitute for passion is outrage and we live in a culture of outrage. It is easier to get angry about something than to be passionate about it. Because passion breeds action for change, outrage just tells the other guy to change. The culture of outrage is most obviously seen in politics on both ends of the spectrum.

Parents want to encourage their child’s passion because they want them to be happy. Also most of us were passionate about something when we were younger and life managed to stamp out or just wear down that passion. So we don’t want to be part of that process for out kids. Or we look at our kids and see no ambition and are happy to see anything happening.

The Cart Before the Horse

In our culture with its unquestioned naturalistic worldview, we often seek the effects for things and not the source. We want the emotion of passion and don’t care about the purpose. But Jesus wasn’t seeking the emotion of passion, he was seeking the salvation of the world. The idea and reality he wanted were what caused the emotional and spiritual feeling that let him do the actions.

Our modern skeptics often say people let emotion dictate their actions, but rarely do they realize our ideas and beliefs can cause our emotions and passions. They think if we are emotional about something our reason should automatically be suspect. And they live like this. If they start getting excited about something, they want to squash that emotion. They may even abandon an idea because it causes great emotion.

Passion is bred on the importance of the object of passion. But in a naturalistic worldview, nothing is really important. Even the survival of the species is just something we’d like to happen, not something that matters to the universe. My death is a natural thing no different than the death of a cockroach or grass. My emotion is just the result of a survival mechanism that has been very effective at keeping my selfish gene going.

In this worldview there is no oughtness. There isn’t a way the world ought to be, there is only the way the world is. The world is warming up. Whether it ought to be warmer or the temperature it is a matter of preference. To plants that like it warmer it ought to be warmer. To people who don’t want the ice caps to melt, it ought to stay the temperature it is.

So Is It Any Wonder We Lack Passion?

To have real passion you have to believe you are involved in a great purpose. The actions you take are bigger than yourself. They are part of making the world the way it is suppose to be.

This is why passion comes from religion. It is God that gives the world meaning. He’s something outside our universe who created it for a purpose. When something has a purpose it has oughtness. There is a way it is suppose to be. It may be that way, or it may not, but making it the way it is suppose to be is purpose.

If there is no purpose to the universe, nothing you can do makes it better or worse. Not ultimately. Maybe you have a way you think it ought to be, but your way is no more valid than anyone else’s.

So those are my thoughts on passion. We all want and need it, but we need to get it from a true source and not just grab on to the latest fad.

Footnote: I’m not trying to comment on Global Warming. If what Al Gore says is true, that we humans are causing the world to heat up and will ultimately kill off our species, then stopping that is a cause very worth of passion. Because I believe God create this planet for humans to live on. We ought to continue because it is the purpose of God.

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