I have thinking pretty hard as of late about two seemingly separate things: Passion and Fate. They certainly are non-linear philosophical ideas, and in that vein I’d like to broach them individually in 2 ACTS.
ACT I. Passion
Question: Is there such a thing as too much passion?
Enter Jack Skellington:
I feel for our friend Jack. Here he encounters a problem that faces many of us. What do we do when the longing comes? …better question: What is the longing? What does it mean? As he says,
Oh somewhere deep, inside of these bones
An emptiness began to grow
There’s something out there far from my home
A longing that I’ve never known.
Now for Jack, the longing is for something more magical than his specialty, Halloween. For us, it could be similar, a longing for something different, better…or it could be a longing for things more subtle, or it could even be a longing for someone. And then comes this poignant turn of phrase,
But who here, would ever understand
That the Pumpkin King with the skeleton grin
Would tire of his crown, if they only understood
He’d give it all up if he only could.
Oh there’s an empty place in my bones
That call’s out for something unknown
The fame and praise come year after year
Does nothing for these empty tears.
This is a common place to be I think. This moment confronts me in many ways, sometimes in large ways, but more often subtly. It looks like Jack has “lost his passion.” For those that don’t know this story (and if you don’t shame on you and watch this movie!), Jack eventually finds a place called Christmas Town, and the magic and joy he finds there enchants him to such a degree he throws himself into the notion that he will study, interact, and understand what Christmas is and means. And then a very critical thing happens….
He falls in love with Christmas.
And why not? For someone like Jack, Christmas is everything he was missing with Halloween and it was a place he could express himself in every way he wanted. But an important side effect of this situation is what it does to Passion.
I propose that there are varieties and ‘shades’ of passion, from a completely self-less passion (almost a dispassionate passion) to completely selfish passion. And where you are on this continuum answers the question at the beginning: Is there such a thing as too much passion? Let’s look at Jack. Though this interaction, he decides that he ‘needs’ to take the place of Santa Claus – and in a deluded and naive sort of way thinks that he may be able to do Christmas better than has been done in the past. His passion starts to move quickly to a very selfish sort of passion, one which has several symptoms: the object of passion gets diminished, the initial intent of passion gets confused, and the fulfillment one expects from this passion is a fleeting and ghostly thing.
Here is Jack once again after he attempts (and fails) at proctoring Christmas to the world:
What sad words.
What have I done? What have I done?
How could I be so blind?
All is lost. Where was I?
Spoiled all. Spoiled all.
Everything’s gone all wrong.
Now ok. This is cinema so there is a drama here, but (in real life too) I think that when passion starts to veer toward the self-serving kind (and oh what an easy slippery slope it is!) there comes a moment of remorse, especially if one has the capability of self reflection. Now note, he felt amazing when he was acting as Santa. He felt like his “old, bony self again.” But was it enough? No, and in this case ended in disaster. To make things right, he had to put Santa Claus back where he belonged.
Passion is an amazing attribute, to the musician, to the artist, to one who loves deeply. But it is a double edged sword in many ways and it can cause someone to confuse helping for hurting, or giving for keeping, or allowing for forcing. Although I fail constantly at it, Oh to have a endless passion full of integrity!
So this is what I am learning – about conducting, about teaching, about special relationships:
Is it possible to have too much passion? …better question: Is it possible to have the wrong kind of passion? Yes.
INTERMISSION before Act 2: Fate.