We’re all familiar with romantic passion. The spine-tingling kiss. The intense desire. The longing to be with a special person. We’re fortunate if we find lasting and positive romantic passion. We’re even luckier if we find passion in our lives FOR our lives. I’ve finally come to realize my driving passion is writing.
Recently I was sitting around feeling sorry for myself, which happens to me when I don’t have pending deadlines or if I think about various problems. To pass the time instead of doing productive work, I turned to Facebook. Lo and behold there was a new entry by Nancy, my former boss. Rather than bemoaning the state of the world or herself, Nancy’s too busy traveling, running several businesses (travel, consulting), and volunteering. She doesn’t wait for someone or something to entertain her. She throws herself into every minute. I decided next time I was depressed, frustrated or hopeless, I’ll just visit Nancy’s Facebook page and sample her adventures. She has passion and it’s contagious. An excellent example for me.
After decades pursuing my dream, I’m still not ready to throw in the towel. Somewhere inside any person who chases a dream, there’s a little voice saying, “Keep going; don’t give up yet.” That voice might be an angel’s or a demon’s, but it has a definite impact on life.
I’ve come to believe this trait is also present in people who believe in a cause, philosophy, or mission. Politics, religion, art, music. Gardening, quilting, recycling. Call it a passion or an obsession, it can give your existence meaning, link you with others, and provide a structure many people find helpful.
My saga started at age ten, when I submitted a poem to the Saturday Evening Post (it was immediately rejected). I got experience on the job, doing public and community relations and marketing for non-profit organizations. I’ve been a freelance writer for news and features. Several years ago I decided to focus on fiction writing. Now I have published a number of books through small publishers. Another example of passionate person is young Greta Thunberg, the political activist on climate change, who’s inspired millions. Another is an eight-year-old friend of mine who’s passionate about Egyptology and Irish step-dancing.
Having a passion allows me to rise above, go beyond where I am, in order to be conscious of my existence and place in the universe. Some call this transcendence. I’m able to raise and answer questions about myself and life. As author Flannery O’Connor said, “I write to discover what I know.”
But surely a writer needs more than a passion in order to produce? What? There’s no magic process. Novelist W. Somerset Maugham said, “There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.”
As a writer, I’ve learned to navigate a shaky path between my desire to write, inherent laziness, and advice from everyone and anyone. The outside world always has opinions. I’ve learned to thicken my hide, take advice with a bit of salt, then apply as I feel best. For example, one inspirational line editor wanted me to make clear that the heroine wasn’t in a sexual relationship with a male friend.
When you read my books, you can anticipate women’s fiction, ordinary people living their extraordinary lives. My characters aren’t flamboyant, rich, aggressive, shrieking foul language, or even simply annoying, to be interesting. That’s because everyday life challenges people to do and be their best, and their voyage to learning this is fascinating.
Despite my name (and as far as I know barring furtive inroads in the night), I have no Irish blood or ancestors. However, I married a man who’s 100% American-Irish and soon I became steeped in the history, literature and outlook of the bold Fenian men and women who once struggled for independence and still support republican principles. St. Patrick’s Day, that annual reminder of all Irish, invites everyone in the US to become part of the fest, as I did. But what, really, are we celebrating?
Not green beer or rowdy parties. Neither fist fights nor silly hats. From St. Patrick and down through the centuries, the Irish struggled to break from traditional and abusive powers to establish new, sometimes radical, systems of government and society. They took centuries to create a separate government for a part of their island and homeland, at times educating their children under bushes because they were prohibited by the Brits from sending the kids to established schools. They were passionate about preserving their culture, their freedom, their self-determination.
Accomplishments accompany passion. History, indeed life and people around us now, support this idea. Many other qualities, too, such as hard work, creativity, and vision may be important. But passion drives the whole kit and caboodle. Those with passion might ignore the limitations of law, tradition, even human biology (think of Edison and da Vinci, notorious for short sleep cycles) to pursue their dream.
If we translate this passion into fervor behind a social movement, we see similarities. Those committed to their vision ignore deprivation, poverty, separation from families and friends, violence, imprisonment, even death. St. Patrick certainly did. And people can legitimately feel this decision is justifiable. The caveat: can this commitment cross the line from positive to destructive?
Terrorists are driven by zeal, but most of us agree they go waaaaay too far. There is a line beyond which violence and coercion usurp whatever good might occur from supporting their beliefs. A passion for what’s right, however that’s defined, a group’s protectiveness of its people and principles presents a quandary for any social or political unit working for change. Including the Irish. The IRA promulgated thousands of deaths and injuries while pursing their goal of an independent Northern Ireland.
I’ve pondered the question, “How far should someone go in defending his beliefs?”and decided I deplore all violence and coercion. Instances like 9/11, Sandy Hook, Isis attacks, Charlie Hebdo should not occur. Obvious? No. “The difference between a terrorist and a freedom fighter is a matter of perspective: it all depends on the observer and the verdict of history,” said Finnish environmentaist Kaarlo Pentti Linkola. And US Senator and presidential candidate Barry Goldwater said in 1964, “Extremism in defense of liberty is no vice. Moderation in pursuit of justice is no virtue.”
I disagree. This St. Patrick’s Day I’ll be ready to swap spit with those passionate about their principles, but not those willing to fall into violence and terror. I think Saint Patrick would be of the same mind.