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Spider

A Theory on Passion

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Some people feel that their lives are dull and repetitive. Others say that their lives are the exact opposite, causing them to rise out of their beds with vigor and anticipation each and every morning.

 

I think that it is neither work nor the daily routines that give people a flat and lifeless feeling, but rather it's mainly because of a lack of something internal in themselves. Among other things, I believe what is most notably missing in their lives is passion. Some people don't have enough of a passion for something, and I think that's one of the reasons why life on a day-to-day basis seems uninteresting and repetitive to them.

 

This isn't even about hobbies or sources of entertainment. Activities like taking a trip, reading a book, learning a new skill, painting, drawing, watching actors engaged in mock-meaningful actions, listening to music and so on are just used as 'distractions' from the more mundane things that we do. Or maybe we do them just to keep ourselves busy. But I think such activities hardly bring any kind of actual happiness. In other words, these things do elicit a transient sense of enjoyment in our lives (and surely everyone needs it in order to grow and learn), but that is not the same as contentment. These activities have a lot of cultural and social influences as well, meaning that we might do them because these activities are more socially acceptable than others.

 

So, back to passion. And by "passion," I'm not talking about the type of passion which individuals with a passion are seen as passive, as slaves to their passion. I'm talking about a positive type of passion - a more controlled and harmonious type of passion which is well integrated into one's overall sense of self.

 

Psychologist Robert Vallerand and his colleagues define passion as "a strong inclination toward an activity that people like, that they find important, and in which they invest time and energy." But they also distinguish between harmonious and obsessive passion. The difference is how the passion has been internalized into one's identity (see next paragraph).

 

Scott Barry Kaufman, in his book Wired to Create, explains that "harmoniously passionate people feel in control of their passions. They are not following their passions; they are one with their passions. They feel that rehearsing and performing onstage is in harmony with their authentic self and is compatible with the other activities that breathe rich meaning into their lives." And he writes that obsessively passionate people, on the other hand, are "less motivated by a love of their work, and they tend to feel as though they are not in control of their passions. They frequently experience anxiety when engaging in their work and feel constant pressure to outperform others because they see their achievements as a source of social acceptance or self-esteem" (p. 21). For these reasons, their activities are not well integrated into their authentic self.

 

More interestingly, I couldn't help but to think about passion from a Muslim's point of view. Why? Because the word "passion" has many closely related companions, such as desires, urges, motivation, striving, persistence, and commitment and devotion. We find these themes emphasized in many places in the Quran, especially in their relation to faith. Allah mentions people who strive towards what pleases Him, people who have a strong inclination for the hereafter, people who consistently remember Allah, and people who love Allah and His messenger more than anything else. All these things, in one way or another, seem to be connected to the concept of passion, a type of passion that reflects what our innermost inclinations are.

 

Just like one's passion can become integrated into his identity and be in harmony with all his other activities, so can his religious faith: When a Muslim's faith becomes internalized and integrated into his sense of self, then all of his actions start to unite with and respect elements of what lies deep within himself. And in fact this is how it's supposed to be, as Allah says: "Say, 'Indeed, my prayer, my sacrifice, my living and my dying are (all) for Allah, Lord of the world." (Surah 6:162).

 

So it is logical to point to an overlap between faith and passion. And, furthermore, if we accept the idea that passion is a critical component of faith (not the only one, of course), then perhaps we can better appreciate how both faith and passion are linked to our overall sense of self.

 

I know this is way too deep and complex for anyone to be able to say anything with certainty. But, I have a feeling that there is a central spine that ties it all together. It's all one train of thought, on different aspects of the same topic.
 

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Being at one with your passions :hmm: not easy for us singletons.

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I think the 9-5 routine does make one feel life is mundane and repetitive. Passion is secondary if your primary source of survival is that kind of routine job. At times it can make you tired and exhausted and not really have much time to dwell on other things. On a tangent note, realistically people can finish the actual work in 4/5 hours, I don't think an 8 hour shift is necessary. But at some point in history the 9-5 was created and everyone just followed suit. Regardless, many of aspects of life is pretty uniform and repetitive. People seek the same typical nuclear family and lifestyle and a majority of our time and effort is spent on either self care or family care.

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I agree with your post, Spider. I'd probably choose to emphasize "meaningfulness" over "passion" -- though they're obviously closely linked. People generally need to feel that what they're doing is meaningful, even if indirectly so, in order to feel fulfilled. I think religion can help in turning the mundane into something sacred, and thereby meaningful. But there are other ways as well.

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^ I think the difference is that meaning can be subconsciously ingrained into us through social conditioning, though not always. But passion, on the other hand, is something that springs from the inside. I guess the two converge when the meaning is dictated more by one's passion (or one's inner inclinations) and less by external factors such as culture, society, and so on.

 
One of the good things about religion is that it warns us against becoming over-attached (mentally, physically, and emotionally) to anything or anyone. This is good because if we can follow this, then to some extent it will enable us to stay more balanced and positive. For the weak at heart, yes, this is easier said than done, but for others it can act as a psychological buffer against the damaging effects of over-attachment.
 
None of us can deny that there are certain things that saturate peoples' minds throughout the day to a point where it becomes unhealthy, even spiritually destructive. That's why there is a lot of wisdom in the verse where Allah says, "O you who believe! Let not your wealth nor your children divert you from remembrance of Allah. And whoever does that, then those are the losers" (Surah 63:9).

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