People will often feel that much of life is quite ordinary. Whether or not someone has experienced bouts of passion, a person cannot spend their life constantly in a period of intense emotion. Invariably there is a return to ordinariness after an outbreak of passion, or for some people it may just be that from start to finish everything in life is ordinary.
In life the archetypal form of passion is sexual desire. In our twenties we reach the hightide of lust and, for men especially, this is a type of hard to control sexual urge that surges forth from the body and which forces us to seek an outlet for release. For most people these urges are directed towards the opposite sex and this creates an urge for bonding between men and women. This urge is most importantly manifested in carnal desire. In this desire for the body of the opposite sex, men are drawn towards secondary level sexual characteristics like women’s breasts and hips, though of course the ultimate aim is the women’s genitalia (the primary sexual feature). Likewise women can be drawn to second order sexual characteristics such as men’s beards or muscles, though again their desires are ultimately directed towards the genitals (the primary sexual characteristic).
This form of passion in humans is quite natural and, though it may differ in intensity, almost all people experience this innately without need for education or nurture. This sort of passion can be so intense as to lead to neurosis or to sublimation. These are both results of following different paths in the search for release: if sexual desire is not released or is repressed, things can go awry leading to mental illness. The whole of Freud’s theory of psychoanalysis is built upon an analysis of sexual urges gone astray. In other cases, the sexual desire which is not satisfied can reach sublimation, which is a release in the spiritual realm, through the creation of great literary or artistic works. According to Freud’s theory, all successful artists have a strong sexual impulse which is somehow blocked in its original form, and has been satisfied through sublimation. This analysis is definitely a compliment, it is not derogatory.
In contrast, spiritual passions directed towards other people do not seem as natural. This sort of passion, which includes romantic love and friendship, is a spiritual communication, a release brought about by impulses. In rare cases, like if a person has passionately friendly feelings towards someone else, the source of this feeling is not as clear as with sexual desire, and is accompanied by an illusion of their fantasized about qualities and features. Objects of sexual desire have bodily features which act as a tangible indicator, something that can be seen and touched, whereas the object of spiritual desire does not have these concrete features, only that which stems from ideas or abstract characteristics that can leak out through words and feelings or that may even be inexpressible through words and can only be grasped intuitively. Therefore romantic love and friendship are passions less likely to occur than sexual desire.
An even rarer type of passion is the creative passion, and the source of this impulse is even more mysterious than the source of the passion to communicate spiritually. I suspect that it comes from the depths of our life, and is like a disturbance in the wellspring of the human heart, which cannot find proper release, and comes out in sudden jets. Most people simply don’t experience this at all, they stay away from it for their all life, and never know this kind of passion. But where does it really come from? Who will experience this kind of passion? It is a real mystery. There is a widely accepted saying which may provide some hint of an answer: an unhappy childhood makes a novelist. Should a sensitive child happen to be struck by a tormented childhood, no matter because of societal injustice or financial difficulties in life, this can cause that person to experience torment and suffering beyond that of the normal person. This can sow the seed of intense sexual desire and passion and prevent that person from experiencing a feeling of calm through their whole life. If such a person should also happen to have artistic talent, they may become a writer, artist or musician riven by passion. Mo Yan is an example, embarrassment towards his childhood environment gave him a passion for writing fiction; Wang Xiaobo is another example, the misfortunes and inconsistencies in his father’s life during in childhood may explain his urge to write fiction. But such a passion is a rarer thing than the desire for physical and spiritual contact, and is the treasure of the human spirit.
Who will experience passion, what type of passion will they experience, and how strong these passions will be, is to a large degree unpredictable and not something that can be cultivated. And it would be wrong to say that the greater the passion the better. A life without passion is dull but peaceful; a life with passion is more intense but also more troubled. The former is likely to lead an uneventful life, but one that is not wracked by storms. The later will have a more intense, yet more climactic life. In the end the life each of us leads is not something we have can have a choice over with much of it predetermined by factors beyond our control. If there is no passion, the days will pass peacefully. If you are passionate you can enjoy its expression and let it flow forth. Handled well both can enjoy a fortunate and happy life.