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Is There Enough Passion in Your Life?
      by Gail Carr Feldman, PhD
How much excitement can you stand? How much joy can you tolerate? How much pain? Well hold on, because if you want passion, intense passion in your life, you may be in for a wild ride. Let’s look at the areas into which passion pulls us, because, after all, passion is powerful energy, the highest level of desire and focused intention.
For some, passion is associated with love and high drama, emphasis on the “high.” The legendary romances of Romeo and Juliet, Tristan and Isolte, Lancelot and Guinevere, all demonstrate passion, but also apocalyptic pain. Common sense, plus some knowledge of the endocrine system, tells us that passionate obsessions and love compulsions cannot be physiologically fueled forever. There has to be a come-down period, if not a “crash-and-burn” episode, and then gradual re-stablization. A focus that obscures all else in one’s life for an extended time suggests an imbalance, a betrayal of the human organism’s need for rest, comfort and security, and a forgetting that every aspect of human life moves in cycles.
With this in mind, you may be passionately involved with creating work such as art, acting, writing, or expanding sales in your business, or teaching your children to excel in school or in sports, or learning a foreign language, or retraining in a new or related field. You might feel passion for a partner, the excitement of new love, or a new depth of affection for a spouse who helped sustain you through a life-threatening illness.

"One single aim fired us, the urge to embrace all experience, and to bear witness concerning it…" 
                                       -
Simone de Beauvoir

Passion will enrich your life when it comes with commitment, commitment to your highest values, and to the growth and wellbeing of yourself as well as to others. A “modern” story of passionate love and commitment is that of Simone de Beauvoir and Jean Paul Sartre. They were French intellectuals and philosophers who fell in love in the spring of l929. They met at the university in Paris where he was first in their class and she was second. On their first get-together in a park, Beauvoir thought they might read or take a walk, but Sartre had no desire to do anything besides talk. They talked for hours. Ultimately, they talked for the rest of their lives about their passionate interests. “Sartre lived for his writing.” He not only encouraged Beauvoir’s expressiveness, but “…exhorted me to open my eyes to the manifold glories of life.”
Beauvoir’s earliest passion was for personal freedom. She referred to the freedom of being an adult as “intoxicating,” and having her own door to shut as “the height of bliss.” She and Sartre embraced a concept they called “radical freedom” and carefully planned a life together that would support their love, but bypass the “bourgeois marriage” that would have cast Beauvoir in an oppressive, restrictive role.
“One single aim fired us, the urge to embrace all experience, and to bear witness concerning it… When we were together we bent our wills so firmly to the requirements of this common task that even at the moment of parting we still thought as one. That which bound us freed us, and in this freedom we found ourselves bound as closely as possible…”
United States Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s earliest passion was education. Born in l933 to first generation Jewish immigrants, Ruth’s mother, Celia, influenced her love of learning with frequent trips to the library and saved money to prepare her daughter to attend college. Throughout Ruth’s high school years her mother struggled with cancer and she died the day before graduation. Ruth won scholarships to Cornell University where she graduated first among the women in her class and there she met her future husband, Martin Ginsburg. They both agreed to pursue careers in the law.
Ruth entered Harvard Law School one year behind her husband, their first child still a baby. They shared child care duties and household chores. In spite of the chilly reception Ruth received in this class of ’59, Ruth excelled in her studies and won a spot on the law review. During her second year at Harvard, Martin was diagnosed with cancer. He underwent surgery and radiation treatment for a condition the doctors told him very few survived. Ruth covered his classes as well as her own, copying notes and typing his third year paper. Martin recovered and was able to graduate on time.
When Martin accepted a job with a New York City law firm, Ruth transferred to Columbia Law School to maintain the family. She made law review again and graduated tied for first in her class. In spite of her superior academic achievements, Ruth Ginsburg received no job offers from New York law firms and was unable to even obtain an interview for a Supreme Court clerkship. Her status as “a woman, a Jew, and a mother to boot,” was just “a bit much” in those days. She learned that scholarly passion and achievement gained little without the freedom to be recognized and provided the same employment opportunities as men.
In the early 60’s Ginsburg was inspired by reading Simone de Beauvoir’s, The Second Sex. As her career developed, she taught at Rutger’s, and she assisted the American Civil Liberties Union in litigating sex descrimination cases. In l972, Ginsburg became the first tenured woman law professor at Columbia Law School. Between ‘72 and ’78 she argued six cases before the Supreme Court and won five. In 1980 President Jimmy Carter appointed her to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. Ginsburg’s reputation continued to grow as a staunch defender of women’s rights. She believes that gender-based stereotyping harms not only women, but all of society because of the corresponding abuses of power.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg was appointed to the Supreme Court by President Bill Clinton in l993. He said, her “fine mind, good judgment, wide experience in the law and in the problems of real people,” made her “the Thurgood Marshall of gender equality law.”
Passion is living the life that interests and excites, regardless of the difficulties. Beauvoir and Ginsburg persevered in living passionate lives, staying true to their values, and overcoming the obstacles society placed in their way. Further, their passion proved to be their purpose, their contribution, and their service to others.
Find your focus, your vision, your dream and manifest it in your life. And don’t be surprised to find you’re also learning to love yourself, honor your deepest wishes, and fly free of all past limitations.