You Cannot Commodify Passion

So how to harness that which can neither be bought nor sold?

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Photo by Rafaela Biazi on Unsplash

Do you know what makes you heart beat faster? In a world of conformity, copycats, and globalized everything, passion is the great differentiator. As a result, it is being used to sell us all kinds of products and services to help us discover what ours is or what others convince us it is. Writing is one of those passions many profess to share, many more use as a sales pitch, but few ever attempt to articulate in a gutsy, compelling way. Because passion is as passion does, it doesn’t just stand on the sidelines waiting for serendipity.

Writing is only ever explained by yet more writing until the medium becomes an ouroboros of urgent self-awareness. When we have an itch, we scratch it; some of us use fingers, pencils, rooms corners, and backscratchers; others use language. Those others are writers, compulsive, reclusive, intrusive, and never not obsessing about being a human in the world. A bit like everyone else online, only with thinking, linguistic fluency, and the kind of heart that doesn’t need to sell itself as honesty. Or as authenticity. Or as vulnerability. Or as whatever concept self-marketers have latched on to in an attempt to conjure up the kind of credibility their work denies them. We can all write but we don’t all feel duty-bound to respect and honor language and our shared humanness with our words.

But passion isn’t exclusive to word-ridden folks, it’s a catchphrase for that force that empowers us to keep doing what we do because it is our calling. Not to answer is would be unthinkable, impossible: suicide in installments.

Passion puts us through the paces and never pauses to give us a pat on the back, it just keeps going until we stop, collapse, or drop dead. Passion does wane but it never leaves us, it is a filter through which we see life, the part of our identity where calling, joy, and service intersect. The more passions we have and the more they cross over, the more fulfilled we are.

Passion is impossible to ignore, it never tries to justify itself; its only fluctuations are degrees of obsession. It’s not so much about doing what we love as it is about servicing passion by any means necessary, even if it costs us money, even if it ruins us and our health. Sometimes, passion is a profession; sometimes, passion is art; occasionally it is a job, a business, a product, a service, or a side gig.

While many of us hail passion as the secret sauce, it isn’t an indicator of success but of resilience and adaptability in the face of failure. Someone who has passion on their side will try that one more time on the off-chance; someone only plagiarizing passion won’t last the distance. Passion demands surrender, hope, vision, and faith as well as a commitment to lifelong learning. It is a synonym for life as we would merely exist without it, spending our every waking moment wondering how to give it free rein.

Regardless of what self-help snake oil posits, passion is no more enigmatic than inspiration or creativity. Passion, inspiration, and creativity don’t come from some mysterious, remote, and universal source only a chosen few get to tap into. They’re part of our shared humanness but we don’t always know what they are; we haven’t done the necessary work of getting to know ourselves yet.

The yearning for visibility and perceived prestige often prevails over the work and dedication it takes to earn both. That’s why cheat sheets and shortcuts exist for those who want the job title but prefer to shirk responsibility. Cue the parasite industrial complex, an industry entirely feeding off other people’s dreams and doubts. Charlatans are selling us upgrades on passions we don’t have, profiting from our search for meaning in a life almost entirely devoid of any.

Beside money: We need some to live and we need more than we have and we want more than we need and we need more than we live as we’re too busy wanting, wanting, wanting. That’s not passion, that’s teleportation out of a present that we might enjoy if we bothered paying any attention to it instead of just paying for it. We consume mindlessly to palliate all our deficits, purchasing our way toward self-improvement one listicle at a time. We want people, places, and prose; we have apps, platforms, and pablum encouraging us to always chase the next frustration.

If passion is a shepherd, it has the same gentleness with our heart its German canine namesake has with a slipper. It inhabits and haunts and possesses us, seeping into every tiny crack, growing, growing, growing until it bursts out of us, one way or another. And hopefully we have enough intellectual fertility left in us by then to harness passion in some way and disseminate it.

Elite athletes may have natural talent but coaching and practice are what turns this talent into world records and medals. Even passion needs occasional guidance and support as enthusiasm is often blind to how little it knows. Willpower and resilience matter but only as much as the people we surround ourselves with. Despite what a culture that keeps us down for profit would like us to believe, the potential of the human mind is limitless. Combined with people and effort, passion can help you find the combination that unlocks it.

Yet another name for love, passion burns bright; the flame will not be deprived of oxygen, no matter how many times you singe your fingers.

I’m a French-American writer, journalist, and editor now based in the Netherlands. To continue the conversation, follow the bird. For email and everything else, deets in bio.

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