Rediscovering Lost Passion

Why it's important, and how to do it

"If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, here lived a great street sweeper that did his job well."--Martin Luther King

Passion is not an emotion but a measure of how deeply we feel and experience each of our individual emotions. It is the foundation upon which the sturdy house of our emotional makeup is built. You may love casually or you may love intensely. The difference is the degree of your passion. If the greatness of being human is our ability to experience emotions, our ability to feel, then passion is a measure of our humanity. Every human being is comprised of two elements: a body and a soul. Each has its single greatest need: The need of the body is to feel intensely alive and the need of the soul is to feel intensely understood. The body seeks passion; the soul seeks intimacy. The body seeks a lover, the soul seeks a companion. The body seeks excitement, the soul seek communion.

Simply stated, those with more passion feel more deeply and profoundly. They feel the pain of others more, they glory in their achievements more, they hunger, yearn, lust, and thirst more and they are able to love more. Passion, therefore, is the barometer of how intensely we lead our lives. Like a candle burning brilliantly atop a wick, our passion measures whether we blaze brightly or smolder silently. We may be fortunate to reach the ripe old age of seventy or eighty years. Yet while the quantity of our life would be considerable, without passion the quality would be negligible. Indeed, to live without passion is to be only half alive; it is to live life in the cold when life is all about vibrancy and warmth.


I have always been confused by those who are afraid of passion so living in Oxford has been a puzzling experience for me. As both a university and a town, Oxford certainly has never been a great fan of the emotions. The same probably could be said of England in general. I remember when I first arrived eleven years ago how hard it was to listen to the news on the BBC. In the interest of objectivity, every news story was read in the same exact monotone. A story about a hamster crushed by a lorry would be read with the same passion, or lack thereof, as a story of all of London under nuclear attack by the Russians. There was no commentating, no editorializing, no reaction at all. The news was the great democratizing force: all stories were treated equally. After the tragic death of Princess Diana, however, I began to notice a difference in the voices on the radio. The readers started to put some verve in their coverage. It was as if something finally touched them. Paradoxically, Diana's death had brought the country to life.

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