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Passion & Love

Updated on August 4, 2014

A friend recently pointed out how fortunate he and I are to each have a passion, his being for playing the guitar while mine is for songwriting.
And he’s right: we are very fortunate to have something we are passionate about. Many people don't.
We’re not talking about being a rabid football fan or having a near-pathological need to see every film by a particular actress/actor/director both of which are, let’s face it, rather shallow pursuits. Being a fan - however raving - of something or someone is not the same as being passionate (you can look it up). I’m convinced people use passion much as they use love along with any number of other words in a less-than-correct manner because (1) they’re intellectually lazy and (2) they think it makes them sound intense. Or some such nonsense. And anyone who would defend such slovenly speech by saying “English is a living language” is, quite simply, wrong. We’re not talking about inventing new words. Definitions are what they are. Same goes for the “different context” defense: “I love my brother. I love my Mom and Dad. I love The Beatles. I love fried shrimp. I love watching The X Files. I love the smell of burning leaves in autumn. I love a good book. I love going for walks in the rain.” On and on. Really? Sorry, doesn't work. And the same goes for passion: “I have a passion for customer service. I'm passionate about French opera. I have a passion for water-spot free plates and glasses.”
A passion resonates deep inside, something without which you would be incomplete. It isn’t produced and fueled by publicity campaigns, catch phrases, computer-generated special effects, or high definition camera work. I realize that narrows the field considerably in this year of Grace, but it doesn’t obviate the truth of my assertion (now there’s a phrase to roll out at your next soiree and you can thank - as I do - legendary record producer Jerry Wexler for it).

Does everyone have to have a passion? “It's not compulsory” as Colonel Pickering said of The New Small Talk in Pygmalion. However, I do believe – and it's my blog, remember – a passion can be a healthy and important addition to one’s emotional and psychological make-up. It certainly is for me and for others I know who have one. Now, should that admittedly slight testimonial be enough for someone to say “Well, that’s good enough for me!”? Perhaps not, but before dismissing it out of hand allow me to point out that countless years and vast amounts of money have been spent searching for the lost city/continent (opinions differ on which) of Atlantis, based solely on a few lines in Plato’s Dialogues.
Wouldn’t you like to have something that transcends the day to day, that causes your very soul to soar? Of course you would. Who wouldn’t? I can’t tell you what your passion should be, any more than Plato could. As Swami Rheeva said in a speech at the Apostates’ Winter Cotillion of 1982, “I don’t know, you don’t know, nobody knows. Maybe God knows, which would explain why we have that expression. Relax. Breathe deeply. It shall be as it shall be.” In other words, if you want one you’ll find one or, perhaps, one will find you.

Remember this one? All you need is love.

Now there's a catchy phrase. Would God it were true. Well, there's nothing like a good slogan to get you through the hard times:

“Workers of the world, unite!”

“Make love, not war!”

“See the U.S.A in your Chevrolet!”

Well, maybe not so much that last one which was part of a rather successful advertising campaign in the early 1960s. As with the best popular songs, most everyone recognized the melody and could la-la along from start to finish, but it was a rare person who knew any of the words beyond the hook line which, unlike the popular song model of the day, was the first thing you heard. Nothing beyond those six words mattered. Saying or hearing the words “I love you” works much the same way. What else is there to say? What else can you say?

The mere utterance of those three simple words – at total of eight letters in three groups with two spaces - changes everything to such an extent that pretty much everything else gets kicked to the curb. Kurt Vonnegut said essentially the same thing in his book Palm Sunday: once love is introduced into the equation, it doesn't matter if the sky is black with flying saucers. Everything before that moment is gone for good. It's a whole new ballgame, kiddo, with a new set of rules.

Understand now, I have nothing against love. The very idea of falling in love gives me chills. The heightened sense of anticipation of seeing your beloved is like nothing else in the world. It's too bad people have different ideas of what “love”and “being in love” mean. Even people in love can be hard-pressed to agree on a definition and believe me I know whereof I speak. I've got a string of ex-wives from here to there and back again and about the only time we agreed on the subject of love was when, like Elvis, it had left the building.

Something I do know: “flurries of passion followed by extended periods of gettin' it on” (to quote noted sage and love machine Homer Simpson) aren't necessarily what Love is all about. “Perhaps not, but the physical aspect is an important part of Love.” Really? Ever read The Letters of Abelard & Heloise? If you are one of the ever-diminishing number of people who don't see reading a book as a complete waste of their oh-so-precious time, I respectfully suggest you check it out.

(In support of the previous paragraph I can say without fear of contradiction there have been three women in my life whom I truly loved despite the lack of a physical relationship. Given time, such intimacy might have come about but circumstances and events – and other people – got in the way. It happens. I didn't love them any less for the lack of it and don't believe I would have loved them any more than I already did had we spent our spare time doing the horizontal bop.)

Look. Here's the deal: love has a knack for showing up in the most unlikely places. Right next door in your hometown, or in a parking lot on a sunny afternoon, or even half a world away through the magic of the internet. One thing I've learned over lo, these many years – and it is unfailingly true - is you don't need to search high and low for love, you only have to be open to the possibility because the heart, like Nature, abhors a vacuum.

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