Mar 15 2010

The Meaning Of Passion

What does it mean to have a passion?  The word is thrown around a lot, especially in Twitter bios; “I am passionate about…,” is a common way to let people know what you care about.  There are depths to this word, though, that few people think about or really explore.  To wit: Art is – literally – a Passion.

The word, “passion,” comes from the Latin patior, which means, “to suffer or to endure.”  This literal meaning was brought into the public spotlight with the release of Mel Gibson’s film, “The Passion of the Christ.”  As the biblical Christ suffered and endured for mankind, so it was his Passion.  Along the same lines, a lady helplessly in love for a man (who perhaps was not available or near) would suffer and endure for him, and so he was her Passion.  Through instances like these, passion has become synonymous with love and further softened to mean an intense interest or eagerness.

The idea behind having a true passion is that whatever it is that you love or do, it must cause you pain or difficulty, and you must still want to do it or have it.  I do not mean that you crave the pain (that is a whole other discussion), but that you love the passion enough to endure.  If you are passionate about the work you do for a living, you will continue to enjoy doing it even after you stumble or become worn out.  If truly passionate about a task or a hobby, you will even forget to eat or pee and try to ignore sleep while working!

There is, however, an important difference between art and work. Work is done directly for a reward, and its required skills are improved to increase the return.  Art can be done for you or for others but does not anticipate a reward other than the doing, and its skills are improved only to make the doing better.  Where work is done to advance your situation, art is done to advance yourself.

Art, then, with no guaranteed payback to your life, is a sacrifice – a suffering.  I think any artist would agree that you give a little of yourself to every project.  Every song, every painting, every story or article, every glass/metal/wooden/marble sculpture has a piece of the artist within it, like a child born of loving and exacting labor.  And a labor it is; no art comes from ambivalence.  Instead, the best art is produced at the height of misery or overflowing joy – when you have enough raw emotion to give it form.

Emotion by Jane Costa Lima

If art is empowered by pain and difficulty, then truly: Art is a Passion.  Whatever you find yourself wanting to do despite the failures, pain, and struggle, no matter how epic or how trivial, is your Art.

Your Art can be your Work, and ideally it would be.  Try to find that something that you continue to enjoy through the pain, and make it that something that earns you a living.

Try to make your work your passion.

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Photo credits: Passion by Ethan Allen
Day 6 – 365 Days by Shai Coggins


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