The other day, I watched a Ted talk by Isabel Allende about passion. I also went to the cinema and saw 1,000 Times Good Night, in which Juliette Binoche’s character is so passionate about her calling that she abandons her children in order to pursue it. And on the plane I sat next to a theology student who fervently believed in the law of God.
Passion is something that I admire but that feels a bit alien to me. Swedes, for all their equality and music and technology, are not exactly known for their fiery passion; while, having grown up in England, I’ve been schooled in the ‘stiff upper lip’ approach of self-restraint.
I know that part of the reason for my lack of extreme emotions is that I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have lived – so far, touch a whole lot of wood, fingers crossed, etc – a very comfortable life. I grew up in middle class suburbia and had plenty of toys and clothes. I was good at both humanities and science at school, so felt no special drive towards a particular vocation. My parents didn’t divorce, my boyfriend didn’t cheat on me, I never broke my leg or had my appendix taken out. And my granddad didn’t die in the war, since Sweden wasn’t even fighting.
A friend recently asked me what I thought about demonstrations… Apart from the fact that I would question their efficacy, the real reason for my reticence is more likely to be the lack of causes about which I feel that strongly. That’s pretty terrible, considering the amount of worthy causes there are out there, widespread injustice and atrocities that I really do care about, but apparently not enough to go out onto the streets to express my disgust. Cynicism, or apathy, set in at an early age.
On searching passion, I find the definition: “strong and barely controllable emotion” – and I find it hard to imagine feeling such strong emotion that I can’t control it. Reason always sets in, the rational side always tempers the animal, and the result is something a bit more sensible. I don’t tend to get angry (except over trivial things when I’m tired and irritable), I don’t scream and shout, and I haven’t cried since Dobby died in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1.
Then there’s the matter of men. I look on in bemusement at couples on the tube having the most intense heart-to-heart discussions, listen bewilderedly (though empathetically) to friends on the phone relating their latest crisis, read their epic declarations of adoration by text in complete bafflement. I find it hard to imagine such drama and devotion in my own life, though perhaps I simply haven’t met my Mr Darcy and I too will descend into the depths of Mills and Boon romance when I do.
Now I must be sounding like a pretty cold and heartless individual. I’m really not. Honest. As I’ve already admitted, I cry when made-up animated characters die in children’s films. I get butterflies when I meet Someone at a party. And I love my sister’s children so much it hurts.
Besides, I’m driven and dedicated in my work (– I ’m a digital evangelist as the kids are calling it these days); I get worked up when I witness self-importance, injustice, bigotry…; and I probably agree with George Bernard Shaw that there are other passions, like “intellectual passion… passion for discovery and exploration”.
So maybe I can be passionate in my own, more understated, way, without violent hand gestures, screaming matches, or larger-than-life dilemmas? And then I’ll just watch Made in Chelsea and Downton Abbey to get my gladiatorial fix of drama…