Thinking about passion
I’ve always been drawn to passionate people. I suppose there is an element of the moth to flame thing; it causes a lot of suffering. But looking at the etymology, it seems to make more sense: from pati, the Latin verb “to suffer.”
Is the usage of passion to be suffering really obsolete? The first thing that I lamented when I moved to Arkansas was that I was now separate from my friends who really burned. To feel passion is to feel desire; I’d make a crappy Buddhist, because I can’t ever seem to shut down completely. I am always desirous. I don’t want my desire to cease, and I feel drained when I am around people who don’t feel the same sort of passion. But the end result seems to always be suffering. Maybe Buddah was right, but I just can’t see any other way to live.
So, I’m always looking for some way to find more fuel, to burn it up, to convert it to some sort of flame that generates light, and warmth. But that’s perhaps the root of the problem. Another usage of passion is the sense of being acted upon by outside forces. The only way to avoid this is to close up, turn within, and avoid contact with the world. Fuck that. To live a passionate life is to be acted upon, influenced by the world and to suffer as a result. Sounds enticing, eh?
I think that some people just don’t have a choice in the matter. They wear their nerves on the outside, and don’t have any choice but to feel. I sort of admire people who don’t have this problem, but I can’t really imagine it. All my senses remain open, reaching, searching, and trying to construct new worlds. Worlds where passion can be sustained.
Passion is “an object of desire or deep interest.” I feel that way about the world, and life in general. Even with the suffering, it beats the hell out of being bored. That’s why the teased-out fine distinctions of amorous discourse fascinate me. Barthes speaks of “loves languor” in a way that makes me really think about the delicious quality to waiting. As frustrating as it is, it’s a moment where time stops, and everything is consumed in flames, in passion:
The Satyr says: I want my desire to be satisfied immediately. If I see a sleeping face, parted lips, an open hand, I want to be able hurl myself upon them. This Satyr— the figure of the Immediate— is the very contrary of the Languorous. In languor, I merely wait: “I knew no end to desiring you.” (Desire is everywhere, but in the amorous state it becomes something very special: languor.)
A Lover’s Discourse: Fragments
I think that’s what great writing aspires to. The ability to suspend time in languorous desire. But the object of that desire is always a carefully constructed fiction, of things read and misread. It’s a fictional world, but damn it I’d like to live there. Where I’m constantly feeling desire, constantly feeling as if time has stopped, beating mortality through love. Writing has dealt with death, time, and mortality from the beginning. It’s only weapon isn’t conquest, or greatness, but the languor of transmitting the passion, the love for life stretching backward and forward and time, unceasing, and unchanging.
Sustaining those feelings is the greatest goal of language, I think, in the broadest sense. Because languor is in its own way a suffering, a waiting for desires to be fulfilled, I just can’t imagine life without passion or suffering. Making it last, without end, is perhaps the ultimate problem. I don’t see how it can be done, without a certain amount of fiction.