“The hot place in a man’s consciousness, the group of ideas to which he devotes himself and from which he works, call it the habitual center of his personal energy” (William James).
DOES EVERYBODY HAVE A PASSION? Well, it depends on how we use the word. In one sense, it certainly is true, as the quotation from William James suggests, that everybody has one concern that is their most important concern. Whatever it is, that’s “the habitual center of [that person’s] personal energy.” But looking at it from another direction, it’s also true that some people don’t have much passion, even about their “passion” in life. Even when it comes to their most important concern, they’re not very concerned about it. Their personal energy is not fired by anything very energetic.
Probably, most of us would say we’d like to be more passionate about the things that really matter. So how do we build passion? We do it, I believe, by meditating honestly on the value of the things we say we value. We need to get beyond our words and nice-sounding theories and really “buy into” the real value of our valuables. A man may say he loves his wife, for example. But if he never takes the time to meditate on just how precious she is to him, he may not relate to her very passionately. But let him regularly feed his mind on her true worth and value, and passion is bound to burn more brightly.
Some of us may be afraid of passion, as if it was always something to be denied and held back. Evil comes, however, not from being passionate but from allowing our passion to be used in the service of less-than-honorable ends. Rightly used, passion is our friend. “The way to avoid evil is not by maiming our passions, but by compelling them to yield their vigor to our moral nature” (Henry Ward Beecher).
Passion is what propels us to make a worthy contribution to the world while we live. And when we see it as a force that helps us rightly relate to other people, we’ll want more of it than we have right now. Much more is involved in our passion than selfish desire and ambition. We honor those around us — and make things better for them — when we care deeply about the things we care about.
“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” (Henri-Frédéric Amiel).