I feel compelled to write about Valentine’s Day since this post is appearing on February 14th, but I really hate Valentine’s Day. I always have. I have no affinity for it, no interest in it, and quite frankly I’m annoyed by the whole day. (Yes, my husband loves me a little more for this.) I am not cynical and I do like romance, but Valentine’s Day feels too contrived. I particularly dislike the commercialism of the day and after noticing several horrid commercials about expressing true love by way of flowers, chocolates, and cards — I noticed that passion was a word thrown around fairly frequently. I think of passion as an intense, heavy word and I found myself increasingly irritated with its use in the flippant commercials. Therefore I decided to look it up on Wikipedia; their definition follows: Passion (from the Ancient Greek verb (paskho) meaning to suffer) is a term applied to a very strong feeling about a person or thing. Passion is an intense emotion, compelling feeling, enthusiasm, or desire for something. It is particularly used in the context of romance or sexual desire, though it generally implies a deeper or more encompassing emotion than that implied by the term lust.
I love the definition, but mostly I love the fact that the word comes from a Greek word, meaning to suffer. I assume that retailers are using the word with good intentions. They hope to sell us chocolate-covered strawberries, heart-shaped pizzas, diamonds, and lingerie — leading us to believe that these things will bring on very strong feelings for or from a person. (Horse shit, BTW). However, they are leaving out the suffering part. Any passion is fraught with suffering. There is no love lacking it. The love of a spouse, the love of a child, the love of art and writing — all include a significant dose of suffering.
I feel that passion is less about affection and love toward another human, and more about the things we love to do that make us truly feel alive. Maybe for some that is another person or a child, but often times it is a thing. Not an object, but an activity or creative outlet like writing or painting. Writers and visual artists are some of the most committed, enthusiastic and passionate people on the planet, and while they aren’t exclusive to passion, they do tend to be a group that has an abundance of it. They also tend to suffer the most for that passion. Many artists keep multiple jobs to support their art; they often live on the fringes of society, their ideas and opinions sometimes at odds with the mainstream culture. Yet, they continue to create and sacrifice. Those who start magazines like Bohemia, open galleries like the Croft or run festivals like our wonderful Waco Arts Fest give up their time, money, sleep and more to do so. These are true passions, the things we create and suffer for and through that suffering and work we persevere and find great reward and satisfaction.
The concept of Valentine’s Day is sweet, but it isn’t about true passion, it’s about celebrating love, romance, and sex… oh, and selling 17.6 billion dollars worth of Valentine’s Day swag. What’s your passion?