Is it passion or just obsession?

Bird Droppings March 28, 2022
Is it passion or just obsession?

“All games have an important and probably decisive influence on the destinies of the players under ordinary social conditions, but some offer more opportunities than others for lifelong careers and are more likely to involve innocent bystanders.” Dr. Eric Berne, The games people play

This past week while emotionally difficult, I had many moments of solitude, sitting and pondering. I had a thought. Why are we passionate about our jobs, friends, families, and perhaps life? I started thinking, and yes, perhaps I think and even obsess too much. I use the word ponder as I call it, often over trivial thoughts for some meaningless dribble, little shadows that many never see. Can we be passionate about something any other way?

Fourteen nearly fifteen years ago today, I filled in a form for a young man who was very obsessive in so much of his life. He was and still is obsessive to the point of distraction from reality many times. If you mentioned Jeff Gordon’s number or name and his eyes would light up, and immediately, in a torrent of language almost as fast as most people can understand, there would be statistics, information on this NASCAR race or that and this sponsor or that and soon you would wish you never mentioned Jeff Gordon. I bumped into his mother a few days ago at her job.

With Obsessive-compulsive individuals changing the subject often will solve the immediate symptoms. I used Jeff Gordon to pull him back from another subject or thought that he would have been obsessing on that was less reality-focused while in my class fifteen plus years ago. Obsessive-compulsive Disorder, OCD, can manifest in many different ways, often crippling a person with routines and rituals that have to be fulfilled. As I sit here, I see the passion in that obsession. Perhaps there is an obsession with passion.

“All things are connected. Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons and daughters of the earth. Man did not weave the web of life; he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.” Chief Seattle, recorded by Dr. Henry Smith, 1854

So often in life, we do or say things that seemingly are independent thoughts, random utterances that mean only a bit to us as we pass at that moment. Yet the ripples, the effects, and the flow of direction from that utterance can carry and evolve far beyond that moment and place. As in a game where one person manipulates a piece, and often the other parties involved are unaware of strategy and plan, nothing is soon left. I think back to that obsession and what may be said in meaningless thought or pursuing a thought or idea driven by some physiological mechanism we do not control. Is passion mistaken for that an errant whisper and dream? Could passion be an obsession with a simple concept mistaken as a true passion for that concept?

“Passion and prejudice govern the world, only under the name of reason.” John Wesley

“Passion, though a bad regulator, is a powerful spring.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Let men tremble to win woman’s hand unless they win along with it the utmost passion of her heart! Else it may be their miserable fortune, when some mightier touch than their own may have awakened all her sensibilities, to be reproached even for the calm content, the marble image of happiness, which they will have imposed upon her as the warm reality.” Nathaniel Hawthorne

It was perhaps John Wesley’s obsession that led to his passion. Wesley was one of the founders of the United Methodist Church. Wesley was an Anglican Priest who was methodical in his thinking, often having communion 30 times in one day. He would often be on his knees in prayer for hours on end or composing hymns and music as his brother Charles did. The web of life has so many strands woven in and about. Was John Wesley a man obsessed, or was he passionate about his calling?

Hawthorne sees a different picture of man, one of seeming change of personality, differences, and varying capabilities. Emerson’s ideas I often find in my thinking as I do, and in his ideas, there is a close kinship between obsession and passion. Passion is a powerful spring, but it is so challenging to regulate.

“Without passion, man is a mere latent force and possibility, like the flint which awaits the shock of the iron before it can give forth its spark.” Amiel, Journal, December 17, 1856

“Passion is universal humanity. Without it, religion, history, romance, and art would be useless.” Honoré de Balzac

“Every civilization is, among other things, an arrangement for domesticating the passions and setting them to do useful work.” Aldous Huxley

I look at how we see the passion and, conversely, obsession and wonder if often the two are not synonymous, bearing attributes of each other and offering similarities within the differences. It is easier to offer you are passionate about your job than obsessed with it when discussing it with others. It is far easier to accept a passionate person than an obsessive one. Religion needed obsession to succeed as I look at Wesley and so many of the Saints, yet passion for their beliefs is a more robust and believable offering. Within the world of art, I see Vincent Van Gogh, who would have never painted with the feverish pitch and effort that he did and his paintings today would not be selling for tens of millions of dollars without his obsession. Yet to many in his time, he was crazy, and his painting barely kept him alive. Some will see passion as he sent his ear to a girl he loved, while the poor girl saw obsession.

Can we turn that obsession into valuable and meaningful work? Often in the game of life, as I started this morning, passion is turned not against the passionate but for the person holding the winning hand.

“Every man is a damn fool for at least five minutes every day; wisdom consists in not exceeding the limit.” Elbert Hubbard

I have known many who even take medication for OCD, and some of us can tell when and how much they took based on their interactions. I wonder how we deal with passion. Do we manipulate and propagate as needed, medicate when not needed, or push under the rug when the deed is completed and the game is won? Passion is a challenging course in life to ponder. Do we possess it, or is it simply obsession. Please keep all in harm’s way in your heart and on your mind, and be sure always to give thanks namaste.

My family and friends, I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)


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