…the question put to Luis and I by a new friend and fellow Spanish language enthusiast. Well, the complete question went something like, “What is the difference between having passion for something and being obsessed by something?”
It was a question posed innocently enough, over dinner, the four of us present; she, her husband, Luis and me. But appearances are sometimes crafted to camoflage intentions and my amygdala went on full alert as I got a whiff of our 5th diner – danger. Something about this question seemed loaded and the dynamics between her and her husband upon it’s uttering let me know that I was right. Subtle dynamics to be sure, subtle in a taut kind of way that betrayed the self talk just below the surface; “Keep the emotion out of your voice. Appear ‘devil may care’. Stay cool – we don’t know these people very well.”
Well, I was hooked immediately. Was it the dynamic across the table from me? Or was it the question itself? I knew the inquiry had to do with her interest in learning all things related to the Spanish language and the cultures within which it lives, but knowing this had more to do with ‘Spanish’ being the reason we had met for the first time only 2 hours before and were now having dinner together, not because the word “Spanish” had actually had been articulated. It was one of those questions understood for the context.
While my amygdala was doing a scan of the area, I ventured cautiously; “Good question, hmmm, I don’t really know.” Yes, it was a cagey and clever response. So complete in it’s simplicity that upon additional hemming and hawing, I came up with nothing more eloquent.
A couple of days have passed since the initial posing and I’ve used the question as a litmus test for a variety of situations just to get a full 360 view. While arranging the same 3 flowers in a vase for the 8th time, I asked myself, am I passionate about how flora evokes mood or am I obsessed with spacial relationships. While trying to decide when I should knock off work for the day, is the fact that I have to even entertain this question an indication of my passion and love for what I do, or is it my obsession to demolish my competition.
And after some intense reflection, enhanced with the tiniest spot of Limoncello, I think I’ve come up with something.
I think maybe “passion” is the internal experience ‘one’ has when they feel strongly for something. This strong feeling could be manifest in behavior or not – that part doesn’t matter. The strength of the feeling and how it probably lights up the pleasure centers of the brain when one thinks about it, is more the key here.
“Obsession” on the other hand is merely the same thing identified from the opposite perspective. That is, from the outside. If I observed your “passion”, I would probably call it “obsession”.
The difference between the two can be distilled down to a love of something being experienced from the inside, verses being observed from the outside. The notion that there is a dichotomy inherent; a good vs. bad, a health vs. pathology is more misnomer. Remember folks, the “map is not the territory”, its simply an instrument employed to make sense of something far greater than ourselves.
What moves us and why is one of life’s mysteries. And though I am probably more apt to gravitate toward people who share my passions, I find people passionate about just about anything, captivating. They epitomize vitality and fertility and promise and possibility, they have things to do, people to meet, places to go, more to experience, goals to accomplish. Passion has it’s musk to be sure. I would way rather be around someone who was ignited and on fire and heading in unexpected directions, than someone who still tells the same joke 15 years on. Just kill me now if you know that we’ll be still talking in 50.
Yah, give me dynamics any day of the week. I want the thrill of the chase, the romance of the unexpected turns, the mystery that keeps me seeking and at every satiating summit I want to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I staved off putrification and defeated death (of some kind) to get here.
Maybe my trying to perfect a foreign language is your flying a 757. It takes audacity to believe it can be done, courage to take it on and constant work to be sure that you are ready for whatever might come at you. Even more, maybe my speaking Spanish and you flying a 757 means we couldn’t be more perfectly matched given our nature to take on any challenge and stick to it regardless of the odds we play and the fate we tempt. Success is defined by challenge. And if you are reading this Blog – at least one of your 757’s is Spanish or is it the other way around. ¡Qué será! Pasión es buena, ¿No? Aliméntala – Joan