26 May 2014

Passionate - a word in need of a rest

The other day my normally level-headed, logical and bordering-on-pedantic husband used the word 'passionate' to describe something. He wasn't talking about our relationship (not this time anyway). I can't even remember exactly what we were discussing - something to do with work. But his use of the word made me wince.

Nobody is merely interested or excited or well-informed about things any more. They have to be 'passionate' about them. An on-line profile I read recently listed nearly a dozen things that its author was 'passionate' about. I wondered how they found the time, emotional energy and resources to pursue so many passions.

To me, a passion is something you'd be willing to sell your house for if necessary, give up your reputation to pursue, fill every waking moment with it if you could. That's not to say that it has to be something which other people would find even remotely interesting, let alone important. Some people have that sort of passion about a football team or a band, or breeding geraniums. But they are genuinely, sometimes crazily, passionate.

It has become so important to have a passion of some kind that the internet is awash with articles about how to discover what your passion is. Which is surely a bit like telling people how to discover if their house is on fire.

It's no co-incidence that the word "passion" is also used to describe the overwhelming love that one person feels for another, whether it be a romantic relationship or a parent's love for their child. Lovers and parents are willing to die for the one they're passionate about.

I've got nothing against people being encouraged to focus their energies on the things they find enjoyable or interesting. With time and practice what was once an interest can even become a passion.

A child learning a musical instrument may well develop a genuine passion for it once they've become reasonably proficient, whereas the child who takes up the piano because their parents think they have a 'passion' for it may well give up playing after just a few lessons.

Cal Newport has some interesting things to say on this idea in relation to choosing a career.

There's nothing wrong with being passionate. A life without any passion is one of apathy and indifference. But perhaps it's the writer in me that makes me want to see the English language used in a way that doesn't strip it of it's power. Let's keep the word "passionate", as it always has been, as a synonym for words like intense, ardent, fervent, fiery or zealous.

No comments:

Post a Comment