We mistakenly equate emotionality with the primitive and rationality with the advanced, but in fact the more intelligent the animal, the deeper its passions. The greater the intelligence, the greater the demand on the emotions.
Natalie Angier, Woman: an Intimate Geography
When my son was a toddler, he had awe-inspiring tantrums. At the slightest provocation, he would drop to the floor, turn crimson, and rage with his entire being. He would open his mouth all the way to scream, and flail and writhe as if he were wrestling with huge pythons. He would choke and gurgle and throw things if they were handy. It could be because he was not allowed a second cookie, or it could be that he was teething and over tired, or that his sister looked at him the wrong way. It didnít matter whether the slight was infinitesimal (to my mind, anyway) or perfectly worthy of a tantrumóhe threw himself into his outrage with righteous vigor. It didnít matter if we were home, in the car, or standing in a long checkout line in some store. He was uninhibited about making a scene. He was small enough that I could carry him out of public places when possible, but generally, all I could do was make sure he and everyone around him was relatively safe from tantrum-induced injury, batten the hatches, and wait out the storm.
These tantrums were as pure an expression of passion as I have seen. The problem was, they were irritating, embarrassing, and socially unacceptable. Passion, expressed purely, has a tendency to be that way. Passion is Prometheusí fire, an elemental force than can destroy everything in its path, or an instrument of divine power and beauty that can elevate us toward the status of gods. Passion is a divine current that we all too often restrict or impede, because it is easier to do that than to learn how to channel it skillfully. It takes courage and self-honesty to open up to Passionís flow, and a willingness to face the pain and fear such a powerful current inevitably churns up.
My challenge, as the mother of a fiery toddler, was to find a way to redirect my sonís passion into constructive things, to help him learn to control his temper without repressing emotional expression. I began to realize that it was larger than thatóit was the task all of us face, who want to learn to give voice to our true selves, while being compassionate and responsible for the impact of our actions on others. Too much politeness is stifling. Too little is crass and hurtful. And while my son was learning control, I had to unlearn a lot of repression.
Passion is not all thunder and tumult. Eating the perfect truffle is a form of passion. So is laughing ítil tears come to your eyes, or making love, or dancing, or staying up all night talking to a beloved friend, or skiing on perfect snow, or getting up in the middle of the night to jot down an inspired thought. The trick is to find a balance between the hedonistic side of passion, and the grittier side that confronts us with our deepest fears about control and identity. Because it can be scary, we often hand off the task to others. We revere accomplished artists and musicians instead of painting and singing for ourselves. We find outlets for our own frustrations in the controlled violence of professional sports. We erupt in anger toward petty limitations when we donít allow our own passion to spread its wings form time to time. We dream wistfully of someday doing what we really want to do, listing all the reasons we canít do it now.
Thereís an ascetic thread running through our culture and our lives, and though its influence waxes and wanes, it is always with us in some measure. We might call it repression, renunciation or desirelessness, voluntary simplicity or non-attachment. It is a high achievement of human spirit and wisdom, but itís only one of our truths. Nature often operates without much restraint, profligate and abundant, and this abundant, passionate nature is part of us too. To really achieve good in the world requires self-control and renunciation, but it also requires passion.
In this issue, we celebrate passion with articles in which its expression takes many different forms. We hope you find inspiration toward furthering your own expression of passion, however simply, not someday, but now.
More change is afoot at Planet Vermont Quarterly. Starting
with this issue, PVQ will be on the web! Point your browser to www.planetvermont.com/
and check out our website. Weíre also pleased to introduce our new ad rep,
Sally Epply. Please call her with any questions about advertising in PVQ.
Information for advertisers
Suggestions? Send us email