“Passion. What you need is to find your ‘passion’. If you want to find out what the purpose of your life is then find what you’re passionate about and make it work”.
This is the standard rhetoric told to young, aspirational dreamers with a glint in their eye and a fire in their belly. Passion can set you free; it can drive you to where you wish to be; it can save you from mediocrity and help you reach your dreams. At least this is the standard parental, child-friendly version that kids hear from their teachers and parents. But there comes a point when you look around at the nature of the world and everybody else scrambling to do something they’re passionate about when you realise, ‘passion’ just isn’t for you. It isn’t good enough. It isn’t going to set you free. Nor take you to the mountain tops. It’s too safe – too average.
It’s at this point you turn to obsession. Obsession differs from passion because passion is like a car you drive to try and get somewhere or do something, whereas obsession is not the object being driven; it is the one in control – it drives you; it controls and consumes you – leaving one merely as a vessel in which the great force travels upon. Obsession is what you surrender yourself to when you stand facing out into the abyss of nothingness, mediocrity and emptiness – you know you can’t afford to fall into that blackness so you invite obsession to take over your mind, body and soul, hoping it delivers you to somewhere beautiful.
Those who choose passion but fear obsession sell themselves short. These are the people who let their true interests come out and flourish only to be put back under the stairs when it becomes ‘inconvenient’ or ‘unrealistic’; these are the ones who turn back to security and comfort whenever their passion is taking them to a dark and dangerous place. But to what cost? What lingers over the horizon? Obsession does not fear the dark nor dangerous; it simply is too reckless and has no time to. It launches itself into the total everything – carrying the person of whom is the vessel into the eternal abyss of art and beauty to hopefully find something special. Obsession does this. Obsession is what you need; obsession is what we all need. Obsession. Obsession. Obsession.
‘if you’re going to try,
go all the way.
there is no other feeling like
you will be alone with the gods
and the nights will flame with
do it, do it, do it.
all the way
all the way.’ (Charles Bukowski ‘Roll the Dice’)
From the symphonies of Beethoven, to the writings of Hemingway, to the artworks of Da Vinci, to the adventures of Fiennes, to the olympic medals of Phelps – the great ‘doers’ of all time surrendered themselves to obsession. To go all the way and slip the universe of safety, conformity and security is to space travel to another dimension – a dimension where the wild souls, artists and champions linger. This is what teachers and parents should tell the young – to live and breathe for your passion until it becomes the thing that lives and breathes you. You exist because of ‘it’. You are simply a vessel of this higher energy. Surrender yourself to the tyranny of obsession and hope it leads you somewhere great. It may guide you to the mountain peaks, or it may lead you to death and destruction. But it’s necessary – the world needs obsessed people; it already has enough people living safe, structured and calculated lives. Don’t deprive the world of something great. Don’t be another person who hid from the total consuming everything of a calling obsession. Don’t kill art and sedate the human adventure.
No, stand up; raise up your beacons, make yourself known and let obsession hunt and find you; let it take over your body, let it consume you whole and fling you into the depths of life, creation, art and adventure. Get obsessed, get weird, get living, get channelling and get creating. Passion is simply not enough any more kids – the world needs something better.
“Existence is a strange bargain. Life owes us little; we owe it everything. The only true happiness comes from squandering ourselves for a purpose.” William Cowper