I have a nagging memory from my youth that always triggers a passionate feeling of nostalgia. My younger brother and I were together, just the two of us, on a road trip as close as we could drive along the northern border between the United States and Canada. Then in Montana, we finally crossed the border to Alberta to take the road towards Banff National Park.
Canada is a magnificent country, and the vicinity around Calgary and Banff is simply stunning in its beauty. When we finally arrived at the park, I parked the car at the nearest pull-off so we could enjoy and take in the exquisite landscape. The view was so dazzling, that I am at a loss of words on how to describe it. The emotion that I felt was pure, total passion.
Sometimes, just hearing someone mention Alberta, or Banff, or even Canada will trigger memories of that passion that are beyond the merely visual. It’s hard for me to think of any other landscape that caused such passion to envelope me. Even the awe inspiring Grand Canyon and my beloved San Francisco don’t quite bring about the same intensity of passion as Banff did.
True, deep passion can happen when we’re involved in nature, or engrossed in something creative, or when one is alone with a lover. We cannot call it up on demand. The deepest passion grows spontaneously. I know this is true because a second visit to Banff, many years later, felt wonderful, but the exquisite intense passion was absent from my mind. I found out that such passion is impervious to artificial attempts to recreate it.
Our best creative efforts come about through our desire to share our passion. We can read the poetry of Walt Whitman. We find the compositions were written with very deep feelings from his heart. He expressed what he felt, his most intense moments of soulful beauty. Yet, even Whitman knew that his very best writing paled in comparison to the real presence of his original passionate experiences.
I can remember Banff or the moment I fell in love with my lover. The memories are simply wonderful and inspire great personal passion. That passion cannot equal the emotions I felt when they originally, spontaneously manifested. The second, longing passion, is what drives our most authentic humanity.
The feeling we wish to recreate with the secondary passion comes about through a sweet form of suffering. we remember the special time when we sensed pure beauty, dignity, and austere abandonment of our egoistic self.
The original understanding of passion comes from sorrow. Christians understand the importance of the “Passion of Christ”. Holocaust survivors experienced the passion after the indescribably mean hardships imposed by fascist overlords. Throughout the ages, people have escaped from suffering.
Sometimes we in the West are reminded of the immense suffering in the world. We see images of little kids living on the streets in Syria. We hear of tyrants killing their own citizens because of religious ideologies as is happening right now to gays in Chechnya. The suffering becomes more poignant when it happens to people most like ourselves. There are people very much like you and me who never have a full nutritious meal, clean clothing, and a comfortable, cozy bed for rest. It is through this suffering that passion can explode in unexpected forms.
Passion is perhaps the link between sorrow and beauty. It is what we see depicted in the mysterious smile of the Lord Buddha following the cessation of his own suffering. Sorrow, beauty, and passion are intimately intertwined.
Through mankind’s desire to control and to force conformity upon our fellow people we destroy everything we touch. We lose our passion when we impose order, fear, oppression, and our particular opinions about pleasure and beauty. In doing these things, we enforce mediocrity in the name of the divine.
The normalcy of mediocrity smothers our passion.
It is passion that gives life its beautiful meaning.