Tuesday, December 23, 2003

Passion (Part II)

passion: the state or capacity of being acted on by external agents or forces; the emotions as distinguished from reason; intense, driving, or overmastering feeling; an outbreak of anger; ardent affection; a strong liking for or devotion to some activity, object, or concept; an object of desire or deep interest.
-Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary

When I say that passion is the cause of most of the trouble in the world I mean the kind of passion that surrounds a belief which has been warped by hatred for anyone who does not share that belief. That kind of passion is why those men flew two aircraft into the World Trade Center towers. That kind of passion is why a man who believes life is sarced can kill and main others by bombing a Planned Parenthood clinic. That kind of passion is why a man will kill his wife or girlfriend when she leaves him and then himself. That kind of passion is a loss of self to a belief and that kind of passionate belief seems to be egocentric. A perceived attack on the belief is seen as a personal attack on the person who holds the belief.

Why does passionate belief seem to turn into passionate hatred? Philosopher Eric Hoffer wrote, "Passionate hatred can give meaning and purpose to an empty life." Is that why people slide down that slippery slope to hatred so easily? Could it be that before they found their passion their lives had no meaning or purpose? It is as if once passion walks in the front door, compassion scurries out the back.

My niece was visiting two weekends ago and while she was here we drove around town looking at the Christmas lights. Five of the houses had crosses laid out in lights. I told my niece I didn't understand why someone would put a symbol of Jesus' death up at Christmas. She went back to school and talked about this in one of her classes the next week. Some of the kids were offended by what she said and replied that it was OK to put a cross up because it was a symbol of Christianity. My niece said no, it shouldn't be put up because it was a symbol of Easter. The kids who were upset by what she had said were now upset because she would not change her mind. As my niece was leaving the room at the end of class one boy said to her, "I thought you were OK but now I know you're not." My niece was now an enemy because she did not believe what he believed. Can hate be far behind?

That is why passion frightens me and that is why what I heard at that "Shepherds Party" upset me. The people there were sincere in their belief in Jesus but I get the feeling that they are standing mighty close to the edge of that slippery slope that leads down to passionate hatred.

But...but I also envy the fact that they believed in something. Belief is like a warm blanket wrapped around you on a cold winter morning. It makes you feel all safe and content. I remember how safe and content I felt as a child when I still believed that my parents could and would protect and take care of me. I remember how safe and content I felt when I still believed that Santa was winging his way around the world on the way to my house and that in the morning I would wake up and find presents for my brother, sisters, and myself waiting under the Christmas tree. The people at the party have their religion to give them that warm blanket feeling. Me, I'm too leary of passion to wrap that blanket around me.

I do believe in a supreme being but I do not trust organized religions. Organized religions are just a bunch of little clubs and clubs are formed in order to exclude other people. Of course religions don't call themselves clubs, they call themselves churches. So far I have heard, that only Catholics go to heaven, that only Mormons go to heaven, that only Jehovah Witness go to heaven, that Catholics aren't real Christians, that the Mormons aren't a religion but a cult, same as the Jehovah Witness. I won't even mention the things I have hear about Muslims and Jews. Sorry, if you don't belong to our club (church) and believe as we do you are excluded from joining us in heaven. As Groucho Marx once said, "I don't want to belong to a club that would accept me as a member."

But...but I still envy those people wrapped in their warm blankets. So, I need to find my own warm blanket. I do believe there is something beyond this world waiting for us after we die but I don't think I need to become a member of any organized religion to get there. I just need trust. Trust in the belief that there is a meaning and purpose to my life even though I am not sure what that meaning and purpose is. Trust in my belief that if I keep following the path that my life has been leading me down, I will find my purpose. Belief in this is my blanket. Trusting this belief is what keeps the blanket warm.

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