18 Aug Life is passion. There is no bliss in dispassion.
We have misunderstood.
Nikos Kazantzakis was a recent Greek writer and philosopher, author of “Zorba the Greek” and the very controversial “Last Temptation of Christ” – which you may know. He was nominated for the Nobel prize in literature nine separate times. But obviously, lost, so, draw your own conclusions!
His most famous quote is this: “I hope nothing. I fear nothing. I am free”.
Let that sink in for a moment.
Dispassion. No desires. No hopes, no fears, no emotions. Freedom??
I have my own version of this quote: “I hope nothing. I fear nothing. I am dead.”
So you see where I stand on this. Dispassion. This ejection of emotion in favor of detachment, disengagement, distance. Death. I am not a fan.
Dispassion is exhausting.
I am getting tired of dealing with it – in all its flavors: From long-time friends still unable to see my frustration, or my caring, and can’t quite put a name to their own fury; to politicians, business people, leaders and followers, who are blind to compassion or empathy, victims of misguided philosophies of life; to the fully dissociated ones who have shut down, wounded by traumas. I am getting very impatient.
I am not in position to judge: I just know them intimately because I have been each one of these people. I’ve spent half a lifetime in the emotional desert. And no one should stay there. We need to wake up the passion in people. And I finally found out how. I’ll show you.
Dispassion is not the inevitable partner of bliss.
The promise of dispassion is powerful: to end human suffering. As we sit overwhelmed, scared, and powerless, we want that. And a feeling of blissed-out peace – we want that too. Very deceptive ploy, you will see.
The biggest lie about it is the idea that dispassion is the inevitable partner of inner peace: Meditate your way to inner peace, extract your emotions, and get fake blissed-out faces and fake smiles plastered onto them, with walls built all around so nothing can touch them. Detachment. Or, deep fear by a fancy name.
So, I disagree. Detachment is not the proper partner of inner peace; it is not the solution to suffering. Clarity, passion, joy are. I have talked about this before, so I’ll keep this short. Meditation does calm down the nervous system. But the point is not to ignore and silence our thoughts and emotions. It is to use the calmness to get clarity about the reason for our feelings and go resolve them – not need to meditate them away for the rest of our lives. And fortunately, there is at least one other fan of this idea, and it is, of all things, an Indian wise man who teaches meditation.
The most unexpected experience!
Intense curiosity drove me into this two-day retreat with this guy. Here I am in a vast convention center, all fitted with 3,000 mats laid out in exquisitely spaced precision on the floor. 3,000 souls sitting cross-legged on the mats, all keeping to themselves, mostly Indians, plus the occasional misfit like me. All of us driven here in need of help. I was so curious.
We started, predictably enough, with a few hours of meditation, and some yoga stretching. Live, soothing Indian music was playing. I thought, ok, next comes the preaching about distancing yourself from your thoughts and emotions, to achieve inner peace. I was in for a shock.
He instructed us to close our eyes, and sitting in this now totally silent hall, to focus on and feel the most painful emotion that came up. He warned us that strange things would happen to those around us, and not to judge anyone. He kept up the instruction. Within minutes, pain erupted. Some were quietly crying. Some were howling. Some were letting out screams of horror, some were throwing themselves around on their mats, heads bobbing all over. It was a cacophony of distress being let out. He kept that going. It was amazing. This is a technique I have come to experience myself, in private therapy, called Instant Emotional Discharge. I couldn’t believe he was going there. The idea of controlling thoughts and emotions is so core to the Indian culture, I thought no one could shake this group into wailing in public.
But he did. And they did. It went on for a good hour before everyone seemed to quiet down. A relieved stillness descended on us. I thought, ok, now what does he do? He got us to calm down with meditation, then gave us permission to tap the scariest emotions and discharge them. What next?
He asks us to get up on our feet. Dancing music starts playing. The little man in the flowing robes and massive white beard starts signing, clapping hands. Everyone joins in. Before you know it, the entire crowd, is dancing, singing, arms flailing about, feet stomping, now finally daring to look each other in the eyes, and erupting into spontaneous hugging with their neighbors. 3,000 people in careless, effortless dancing. What just happened??
He let them discharge their pain and their passion just bubbled up – as far from dispassion as you could get. And that is the answer, that is the way. Do it if you dare! What a brilliant, bold man, I thought.
It turns out that the ‘wisdom’ is wrong: Dispassion is not the inevitable partner of bliss. Suffering is not caused by passion, that is the wrong association. Instead, bliss and passion make a beautiful, magical couple. You only need to extract the poisons, and they will naturally fall onto each other. Who knew.
Passion is not loud. It is profound.
There is another poison circulating about passion: It is misunderstood to be loud, explosive, aggressive, and that intensity is scary to us!
But it’s not. That is not passion you see, it is aggression, fear, insecurity – without clarity. It is a crime to taint passion with notions of violence.
Passion can be deep, quiet, centered.
Have you ever stood at an airport with someone you deeply love? Someone you are finding, or losing? Just standing at that gate, feet planted, in that embrace – long, strong, silent – I remember, there was just stillness, exploding with unspoken tenderness.
Passion is not loud, it is profound.
It just pulsates with life, it has a beating heart, an inner energy, that propels you to be a creator. It is what makes us so uniquely human. Unrestrained, beyond time and space, joie de vivre. The entire point of being a human life is to feel, to be moved by love, and awe, and sometimes fear. Yes, there is no other point to life, but this. Passion. Creation embodied. Make of it something wondrous.
It is viruses that don’t feel, don’t try to be a virus. Don’t give me that measured, dispassionate, nothing-can-touch-me look, it leaves me cold. Lock eyes with me and hug, cry, laugh.
We go back to Kazantzakis, who – because philosophers can change their minds with impunity – talks of passion like this: “The only things that have not happened, are the ones we did not desire passionately enough.”
Sweet, quiet, profound, uniquely human – life is passion.
I love you too.