"Passion," the Word and its Intent

I read a lot. Books, magazines, articles, descriptions of sugar-laden star forms on cereal boxes. I read all of it. Consume, in intermittent bouts of giddiness and an awkward, maniacal amalgam of ADD and overwhelming feelings of discomfort with the stillness of life. It is both a wonderful thing and a dangerous thing; a blessing, as some folks who believe in such things would say, and a curse, which is of similar mind to the supposed blessing concoction.

As a copywriter who has done a lot of work in the world of education, I was particularly enamored by a recent article from The Chronicle of Higher Education. The article, titled "All Passion Spent," goes into the usage of the word "passion."

The author, William Germano, isn't fond of the journey the word has taken. Actually, he wouldn't use the word journey. His interpretation, if I can surmise, is something more like a bastardization, a lessening of, a change that is both troublesome and dangerous.

As he says:

Not strong feeling or romance, just passion, this multipurpose, newly purposeless word that is—if you haven’t noticed—engulfing us. Students and professors, workers and managers, politicians and citizens, parents and children, and those personlike things called corporations.

Passion is the emotion de nos jours. We’re passionate about things we do and things we like and things we hope for. We’re passionate about big things and small, things we make and things we sell. The p-word is everywhere, from business-school argot to commencement-day exhortations to promo copy for almost anything.

There are Web sites for passionate design and passionate nutrition. There are sites for passionate vegetarians and another for those who are passionate for pies.

It's everywhere, if you haven't noticed. I see it everywhere, in marketing materials, on billboards and on travel websites trying to sell vacations for those pursuing "passion."

What are we to make of it? I have, in the past, certainly used the word before. But what did I mean when I did? What was the context? Most importantly, what is the right context? Is there a right or wrong context?

I'm really not sure. But I will say this. I agree with the author's assessment that the term is perhaps overused. But that's not quite it, is it? Overuse isn't negative in and of itself. It's the generalized way in which we use it, and the repercussions of that generalization.

He goes on:

Must high-school students really have a passion for economics or political theory or chemical engineering? Should they graduate from college with a passion for kickboxing or lighting design or tort law? And more important, have they failed if they don’t?

I don’t doubt that the repetitive chorus of speeches about passion is meant to be inspirational. But these same speeches can work to undo some of education’s most important lessons, among them the need to keep creating yourself, and the ability of an educated person to keep on growing.

I love that last part. You see, the use of the term has become, in a sense, a washed-out melange of good feelings and a certain lack of clarity, which can ultimately be a limiting (for the student, or anyone) thing.

I'm not saying that we ban its use; nor am I the type that would say that you couldn't use a word in ways that you deem of worth. We all have our words, and we all use them in different, unique ways. I just...don't know. Maybe the author is right. Type "passion" into a Google Image search. See what you get.

But I can say this: I am passionate about it. :)

What do you think?

Read the entire article here.

Is Jessica passionate about jumping? Maybe.

Is Jessica passionate about jumping? Maybe.