Punchinello’s Chronicles

Understanding Passion

These are troubled times, no doubt about it. We’re at the start of a new century and a new millenium, and life seems to be getting more and more confusing. Technology is driving us all faster and faster. What we were familiar with yesterday is suddenly gone, replaced by something totally new. We have to learn and learn, always trying to catch up, never seeming to get there.

Society is roiling with argument, anger, craziness, and shouting. The public debate is less reasonable, more angry name-calling. We seem to have no values, too many values, the wrong values, or always-changing values. Nobody knows anything for sure, certainty is gone, and everyone is worried about what tomorrow will bring.

In the midst of all this, people are losing their jobs right and left. Nothing lasts more than a few years, nobody can count on either their job or the company where they work existing a year from now. Money problems are personal, affect a family, or blanket the entire country and world. Job security, one of the most important wants and desires for each of us, has vanished.

Have you been thrown out of work? Are you being sidelined because you’re getting older? Are you just now getting out of grade school, wondering how you’ll start a business or build a career? You’re not alone. More and more people are turning to the small business environment for some kind of stability. One-owner businesses, working from home, building an online business all are options people want to explore.

How about life in general? Do you wonder if there’s more to life? Some people have all the money they could want, but don’t know why life seems empty. Other people have no money, wishing they could get just a little more and then life would be fabulous. Is money the answer? Where’s the sense of adventure, fun, and excitement we had when we were kids? Did it all just vanish?

Lots of people want to find “the reason,” the cause of all this confusion. It must be the economy, the real estate markets, the war on terrorism, a screwed up government, the Republicans, the Democrats, global warming. It must be a sign from God that we’re about to all be punished, thrown into Armageddon or otherwise boiled in oil.

And then, along comes the idea of passion.

To understand passion, we need to also understand love. And to understand love, we need some sort of framework of human existence. That’s a philosophy or a religion, both of which are organized. Many people drift through life, not wanting to think too much about heavy subjects like philosophy. But try as they might, they still have to come up with some kinds of reasons and explanations for things.

Love & Passion

The quick explanation of love is that it happens when we place our highest value on something here in the physical world. It’s when we value as highly as we can, something tangible, something real, something we can reach out and touch. Love is what applies when we connect with our senses, our feelings.

Passion, on the other hand, is what takes place when we fall in love with an ideal, something that isn’t tangible, that we can’t reach out and find with our ordinary senses.

Your framework of life is up to you. It’s your choice. You don’t even have to have such a framework if you don’t want to.

But everyone has some sort of general or specific idea of how human beings live in something we all call life. Each philosophy or religion offers a description of the bigger container, what happens outside of life. What happens when we die? That’s the larger container.

What’s important is to understand that we have a physical world around us. We can see it, touch it, hear it, feel it, smell it, and we know it exists because we have a direct connection to it. But what’s the part of us that thinks about all this physical world? Where, for example, is your mind? You say it’s in your head or in your brain, but where exactly?

How come people lose part of their brain to a stroke or trauma, but they still have a mind? How much of the brain do we have to lose before it changes our mind? Why doesn’t a mind weigh anything? Where does it sit when it’s working?

The mind brings up an even more interesting problem: What exactly is the imagination? Why is it that children seem to get caught in their imagination more so than adults who’ve grown up? How come children aren’t all that skilled in analytic thinking, logic, and intellectual processing, but they’re very good at imagining all kinds of things?

Let’s also think about the body. Why do bodies do things that don’t affect the mind? Can your mind do things that don’t affect your body? Sure it can. So what is this split between the mind and body?

The Physical and Non-physical Realms

We’ll propose that there is an entire level or dimension of existence that isn’t physical. It’s a realm that may have many dimensions, but let’s just say it’s whatever isn’t physical. Numbers, for instance, are part of that non-physical realm. So are ideas. Principles, concepts, communications, emotions, art, music, all are part of this realm that isn’t physical.

You can’t weigh or measure the sound an oboe makes. You can show how much air is moving in waves, but what about the sound itself? How about whether the sound is plaintive, funny, bouncy? Although you can show countless examples of the number two, you can’t actually show “2” itself. We have symbols like “2” or “II” or “..” or “aa” or “xx” to show two, but they’re still symbols. They’re not the two itself.

Ideas are like that. They’re intangible. They exist, just as does meaning, but only in this non-physical world. If I say, “look to the left,” and you move your eyes and head to the left, what happened? Did my sounds cause you to physically move? Did the word-noises force your body to act in some way? No, of course not.

So how do we connect this non-physical realm to the physical world?

We do it through our bodies. Our senses and physical perceptions make up our feelings. Nobody yet knows exactly how a thought can initiate a series of biochemical events. Nor do we understand how a biochemical chain of events can cause our mind to think in some way (e.g., clinical depression, mania, panic attacks). We only know that it happens.

Our feelings (perceptions and senses) are the way we directly connect with the physical world around us.

Love is a feeling. Love is when we successfully communicate and connect with something in this world. It might be a person, animal, objects, things, or whatever else. As long as we’re connecting in some way through our feelings, then we have a measure of love.

Think of love as a form of communication.

When we feel that we’re connecting and that we’re understood, we grow and increase love. It’s an attraction. When we feel we’re not connecting, disconnecting, or that we’re not understood we feel all the emotions on a downward and opposite side to love. We get annoyed, irritated, frustrated, angry, furious, ending up in a black void of despair and utter hopeless rage.

As we begin to communicate we build on the scale toward love. We become interested, attracted, energized, happy, ending up with the all-encompassing sense of joining in communion and envelopment of love. We flood our system with oxytocin, and blend completely like a fine symphony.

This connection and communication with the world around us provides us with empathy. We begin to sense the meaning of the other entity in the world. If it’s a person, we sense what they think, how they feel, who they are, and all so much more. Same with animals and other living things.

If we love inanimate objects, we come to learn how they work, their function and purpose, how to increase their presence and so forth. We might love money, for example, or ice cream or fine jewelry or art paintings. Each of these things is just that, a thing. We connect with them directly, and they draw us into the physical world.

The opposite of this connection is when we separate from the physical world. We fall into our own mind, our own self, our own interior world. We dissociate from people and things around us, losing track of where we are in time and space. Nothing seems “real” anymore, and we have no sense of anyone or anything around us. We lose empathy and don’t understand what’s happening.

When we have no connection to the world, we begin to blame all of existence on whatever is “out there” that isn’t “in here.” All our pains, all our troubles, all our frustrations, and every obstacle is caused by a mysterious force of something-ness that doesn’t exist, can’t be understood, but it’s there. People around us are ruining our lives. Objects around us are willfully causing us pain.

Love and rage, empathy and narcissism, all are part of how we connect directly with the physical world.

But let’s say you have love. You have many wonderful things in your life. You find happiness as you put on fine clothes, eat good food, play with friends, and live in the moment. There comes a point where you begin to realize that something’s missing. Wanting something to happen, being bored; you notice this need in you more and more.

In this situation, you wonder how you possibly could be bored and unhappy. In comparison to everyone else, you’re lucky. You have a life most people only dream of. And yet, something is missing. Passion.

Finding Passion

Many people have said that passion is what gives us a reason to live. In a way, that’s true. Passion is our connection with the world of ideas, ideals, and the non-physical realm of concepts. Passion arises out of the imagination, whereas feelings come through the physical body.

Without an imagination, you can’t perceive ideas or ideals. Since almost everyone does understand an idea, everyone also has an imagination. The only question is how well developed is that imagination. How much practice have you put into improving your own imagination?

To undestand and feel a passion, you first have to have an ideal. Some people come to understand God or a central religious ideal. They first perceive in their imagination the ideal, then look around at the physical world. The difference between what could be and what actually is creates a gap. If they believe they can fix that gap, they become passionate.

Other people get a Big Idea. It might be for a business, a product, or a service. They once again see the world as it is, then envision the world as it might be. If they believe they can make a difference to that gap, they become passionate.

Some people are fortunate to be born with a connection to ideals. They have a natural talent and ability for non-phsyical things. These might be musicians, artists, mathematicians, logicians, software developers, and so forth. They have a natural facility in understanding how to work with ideas, concepts, and other abstractions. Those people might start off with a passion.

But many people with a passion find that something still is missing. It’s the other side of the equation, the connection and communication with the physical world. We can’t separate the two. We can’t live only in the mind and imagination, ignoring the physical body. We do require food, water and air after all.

Nor can we live only in the body, only in the moment, never being interested in the underlying meaning of events.

Love is when we hold as our highest value someone or something physical. Passion is when we hold as our highest value an ideal.

Many of us believe that the person we love is also the ideal person. We see the person and also imagine what they could be. Then we discover a gap; the two visions aren’t the same. We believe we have to compromise and that life is a series of compromises. No! It’s only the natural difference between the ideal and the specific representation of that ideal that we see.

Given that no abstraction can be tangible; that nothing of the non-physical realm can exist directly in the physical realm, no real person can ever be the ideal person. Something always is missing, and so we make ourselves disappointed.

Happiness and Joy

We’re happy when we connect with, communicate with, and move toward the physical. We’re joyful when we come into contact with the ideal. Even if we don’t hold an ideal as valuable at a particular time, we still can come into contact with an ideal. That contact gives us what we call joy.

Think of a fine piece of music. Do you feel happy when you listen to it, or joyful? Can you tell the difference in how you feel? What about when you successfully solve a puzzle. You’re happy that you completed the task, but you feel joy when you look at the completed picture or pattern.

Do you feel something is missing in your life? If so, then there are two particular areas for you to search. The one is your physical connection with the world around you. What do you love, value, and respect? Are you connected with anything directly, using your senses and perceptions?

The other area to search is in your sense of ideals. What do you hold as perfection? Do you see a gap between the existing world around you and that perfection of an ideal world? How could you bring some part of the existing world closer to some kind of ideal?

Your ideal can be just about anything. There aren’t good and evil ideals, only ideals themselves. Environmentalist fanatics hold that an ideal world would contain no human beings. Making no judgements and examining no logic, the proposition is still an ideal. And so those people become passionate about a form of environmentalism.

Religious idealists hold that their version of the ultimate supernatural being is correct and the only such being. They see the lack of knowledge or agreement in the existing world and a way to fix that gap. And so they become passionate.

Bill Gates saw in his imagination a world using computers as being closer to an ideal world. Looking at the existing world without computers, he believed he could close that gap and have computers everywhere. And so he became passionate.

You might see that too many puzzles are just a pile of disconnected pieces. Seeing a world where all puzzles are complete, you may want to close that gap. And so you become passionate. Passion always begins with a vision of an ideal world in which to live.

Love is the process of living in whatever world exists, joining with it, communicating with it and being understood. Lack of passion is a fault of the imagination. Lack of love is a fault in sensory interconnection.

The tragic thing about our world today is that philosophers, thereby educators have spent nearly 300 years telling us that no such thing as ideals even exist. Those ideals (and ideas) cannot exist, do not exist, will not exist, and never have existed. Anyone who believes that any kind of ideal is anywhere is either a fool or insane.

And we wonder why we all feel as though something might be missing in our lives.

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