Talking to others the biggest question is often, “What should I do with my life? How do I decide what the right path for me is? How do I get clear on my path?” A common answer is “go with your passion.” This implies that what you are passionate about is a better guide to your life than a path like clarity.
Let’s examine this for a few lines.
What are people really passionate about in their lives? Sports, politics and sex are some of the items that bring forth passionate behavior. I could describe the behavior of passionate people but it isn’t necessary. Go online to a game of the New York Giants or the Liverpool Football Club and watch the people in the stands. Their emotional behavior runs the gamut from ecstasy to rage. Political discussion is a misnomer because it is so dominated by passionate emotions that so called discussions degenerate into name calling. You don’t see much rational display until the game is over and they are figuring out the quickest way to get home.
Sex is a very detailed dance of intrigue and passion that dominates our lives. It isn’t rational.
There is a very famous footballer (soccer player) in England named Roy Keane. In his biography he details the careful steps he plotted to pay back a hated competitor for some injury. It took him more than a year and when he ‘got him’ it ended his competitor’s career.
This is the standard kind of behavior that passion brings out in humans. Passion tells us that it is okay to stalk someone because, ‘well we love them’. We can excuse any kind of reprehensible action as long as we justify it with our notion of love or passion.
We, all of us, have a bit of Macbeth in us. You know the story of Macbeth? He was a respected Scottish lord who was incredibly successful at war and at ruling. His king trusted him and praised him. Brooding on the moors he convinced himself that because he was so good at what he did that he should be the rightful king. From that point on he plotted, using his skills of politics and murder, to obtain his passionate desire. When he finally obtained it he was sickened by himself and died defending his kingdom with no energy. Passion deserted him and ability as well at the end.
Socrates, in the Phaedrus, talks about passion as the opposite of reason. His metaphor is that they are two horses with a charioteer guiding them. It takes all the power of the guide and reason to keep passion in check. If passion slips the reins and gets control it quickly runs away with your life. It may be fun while passion is in charge but soon you will end up like Caligula or Alcibiades. Socrates never talked about the morality of these things. He felt that it was a practical matter. Passion would eat your soul and destroy who you were.
“You tell me not to follow passion to understand my best life. What should I do instead?” you ask.
Quit defining yourself as what your external conditions are. When you meet someone they want to know your job, your hobbies, your preferences in food and drink, your political persuasions, etc. These are external descriptors. Who are you? There is a way to determine who you are without sitting in lotus all day.
This is the path of desire. It clarifies who you are in a four step process. The components of the process are will, belief, expectation and love. I’ll talk more about this in a future blog post. There will be a full discussion of the path in my upcoming book. For now keep asking yourself how you see yourself and your interaction with the outside world. Where does your motivation come from? What satisfies you as something well done? What are you confident about?
Tomorrow morning when you get up ask yourself what you believe about yourself. Play with this question for a few weeks. Have fun.