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Passionate as compared to charged


The Fringe Dweller's Guide to the Universe

Passionate as compared to charged


Although this is a hard thing to confess, I'm just now reading Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead. Listening, actually. The joy of owning a Rio is getting my two books a month from Robin William's Audible.com website. I don't know exactly what possessed me to download it, as it's 28 hours to listen to. I can remember, many times, having the book in my hand (both hands, given it's length) and putting it back, thinking, "Lots to read when I don't even like architecture." (That's a Fountainhead joke.)

No, while the protagonist, Howard Roark is an architect, and the book is a bit about architecture, it is actually a treatise on passion as compared to charge. Or so I am imagining.

Roark is a 1920's architect with a vision that is "Modern." I think Frank Lloyd Wright, but may have that "wrong." He can't figure out why buildings have useless features, like columns that hold up nothing, or balustrades and flying buttresses. He figures a building ought to be an organic thing that arises out of the landscape, that makes spare use of materials, that lives and breathes, and is "integrated."

This as opposed to the view of one of the antagonists, Peter Keating, another architect. His entire life is built upon absorbing the characteristics, definitions and understandings of the people around him. He does a drawing, and runs to Roark to "give his opinion," which translates to "fix it." He reads a book, doesn't understand it, and hears an "expert" say it's a great work, so Keating parrots the sentiments. He then broadens it to "great works are those which you don't understand." He is driven by his attempt to fit in, by "giving the people what they want." He is thus the supporter of everything, the champion of nothing.

Rand was an Objectivist philosopher and writer, and speaks of (although she never called it this) passionate vocationalism. She thought that, to be the perfect human, one must act out of passion and dedication for the conveyance of one's personal vision. This vision is not brought about by whom you hang out with, nor is it the result of adopting the thinking of others. It is the slow, thoughtful, dedicated living out of mastery. (see Dichotomy 8 )

Roark acts totally out of his own well-honed sense of himself - what we have called being self-centred. (see Dichotomy 7 ) He knows who he is and is not interested in what others think of him. He builds buildings that scream "Roark," for no other reason than he must.

Keating acts out of a selfishness that masks his deep insecurity. He wants to be the best, to be noticed, to be important. He is not authentic, nor integrated. Roark is.

(There's a language issue here. In Dichotomy 7, I contrast self-centred with selfish. Rand uses "selfishness" to describe what I call self-centeredness. I use self-centred to avoid the reaction most people have to the word selfish. Rand indicates she does this for exactly that reason. In The Virtue of Selfishness, Rand writes:

"The title of this book may evoke the kind of question that I hear once in a while: "Why do you use the word selfishness to denote virtuous qualities of character, when that word antagonizes so many people to whom it does not mean the things you mean?"
To those who ask it, my answer is: "For the reason that makes you afraid of it."… It is not a mere semantic issue nor a matter of arbitrary choice. The meaning ascribed in popular usage to the word "selfishness" is not merely wrong: it represents a devastating intellectual "package-deal," which is responsible, more than any other factor, for the arrested moral development of mankind... The exact meaning and dictionary definition of the word "selfishness" is: concern with one's own interests.")

It is to how those concerns are expressed that we turn our attention. Let's talk of passion and charge.

Charge is neither good, nor bad. (I've borrowed this term from Ben Wong & Jock McKeen.) Charge describes both sexual excitement and "life excitement" - charge is a reaction to something external. Charge, then relates to field dependence. It's big, bold, and very transitory. It's external gratification for the sake of the hit, the blast, the feeling.

Passion is neither good, nor bad. Passion develops out of a heart-felt need to express oneself. To act with passion is to act with conviction, with knowledge and with purpose and direction. Passion is a feeling of wholeness that comes from expressing oneself through whatever media one chooses. It's internally generated and thus not field dependent.

Our society in general revels in charge, not as a fun thing to do occasionally, but as a lifestyle. Advertising is all about creating charge and then telling us what to buy so that we can participate in the charge. It promotes instantaneous gratification, and dilettantism - as people constantly flit from this to that to another thing, never settling - and then having the audacity to say that they are doing it because they are a "free spirit."

It's happening all around us, as people put externals ahead of self. To suggest that  a charged lifestyle is self and soul destroying is to risk the wrath of the masses, because charge is all they have. Or as one of the characters in The Fountainhead says, " Ask anything of men. Ask them to achieve wealth, fame, love, brutality, murder, self-sacrifice, but don't ask them to achieve self-respect. They will hate your soul."

Charge has its place. Sometimes, we want to simply let our hair down, bungee jump, get laid, just let it all hang out. What we need to understand, though, is that this charge is not very deep. It's skin level. The error in thinking is to equate such acts as either true freedom or passionate vocationalism. It's living life as if it's disconnected from the depths of self. Good for some excitement, but in the end quite predictable and boring.

Passion, on the other hand, is cultivated like a fine wine. I heard a line once:

The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago.

Passion, like mastery, takes time.

Some people think I'm a pretty good writer, me included. While I have a certain "born with it" gift, I also practice - I write all the time. If someone asks me to teach them to write, I say what my teachers in High School said to me. "Write. Write. Rewrite. We'll talk again in 20 years."

As I look back at my writing, I see the seeds of my thought today. There is a consistency in my vocational worldview that stretches back even to High School, thirty-some years ago. Which is not to say that I haven't changed my views. Well, maybe it is. Refined my views is closer to the truth.

I continue to stumble upon something like The Fountainhead and feel a familiarity with yet another writer's thinking. Not total agreement, but a simpatico.

I write, and I counsel and I live my life the way I do, not for show or approval, but because this is who I am. I don't, like Roark, build buildings. I build ideas. It's my passion and my vocation.

I have been judged to be wrong, to not understand, to be "too tough to live with." That's OK. I can either choose to accommodate myself to others (gaining the charge that comes from being "loved" - as in "approved of,") or choose to live my life passionately, living as I choose to, aware of and willing to accept the consequences. My goal is the latter - to deepen my understanding and my vocation, one day at a time.

I choose to have chargy moments in a life of passion. Charge is fun, no question. To me, it seems limited as a life choice.

  • Passion changes the world. Charge creates a sweat.
  • Passion opens one to new vistas. Charge closes doors and limits options.
  • Passion is life long and life affirming. Charge often wears off the next morning.
  • Passion is about deeply revealing oneself in one's actions. Charge is about creating an illusion in order to manipulate someone into helping you get your charge.
  • Passion is about freedom. Charge is about control.
  • Passion has its home in the soul, charge in the genitals.

Each has its place.


  • Passion creates newness. Charge regurgitates what has been before.
  • Passion is the wind in the sails. Charge is a person being dragged along for the ride, screaming "Yahoo!" and thinking she is the wind.
  • Passion is built on rock. Charge is built on sand.
  • Passion is lived in each moment, from the depths. Charge flits from one thing to another, never landing nor taking root.
  • Passion is about personal integrity. Charge is about what others think.
  • Passion is openness and vulnerability. Charge is keeping secrets about who you are and what you're doing.
  • Passion is focussed. Charge is scattered.
  • Charge is fine as a moment of fun. My judgement is that it sucks as a lifestyle.

You get the point.

Thus ends our 12 Dichotomies. I have pleased myself with this series, and am thinking about what to write about next. My muse has never failed me.

Speaking of my muse - some time ago, I was engaged in a passionate dialog with another writer. She and I saw each other maybe 10 times total. She had her PhD in Literature, and wrote interesting stuff that seemed stuck in reporting her failures without ever expressing her self. We exchanged stories once, before she ended our relationship, saying, "You push me and push me to see me. I'd rather hide, and I can't with you, so goodbye." I smiled and walked away. My story to her was about… well… read it for yourself.

In the dark of the night dread comes unbidden, like the return of a demented ex-roommate who refuses to return the key. And I, enervated, seem powerless to change the locks. She comes to me, siren song of soul-less sorrow upon her alabaster lips. A subtle seductress she, dressed in gossamer that hardly hides her charms. I am transfixed by the aching beauty of her song, and tentatively stretch a hand towards her fecund breasts. They beguile me. Cold as stone, and I cannot let them go. I linger there, my mind awash in the play of images of days long past, and yesterday. I draw her to me and plough the furrow of what might have been. Plunging in, I find no comfort. Soon, I am lost in her depths, surrounded by the rich fragrance of her, enticing me to remain, to be her love, to be lost in the dark tangle of twisted strands of memory.

There is a curious comfort in her arms, a sweet sadness, a gnawing regret. Colours recede, until greyness surrounds me like a cloak. In her heartbeat, mortality' s clock, ticking, ticking.

I silently pray for dawn, for light, for release. Instead, night swallows me, pillows me, and brings tears and weariness, and finally unconscious sleep. I wake, exhausted, to a grey, cold dawn. I feel spent. Used. I search for a glimmer of hope, finding, instead, torrents of sadness. I notice she is gone, the door securely locked, and I rise, thankful for her departure. But perhaps tonight I will listen for her footsteps, for the sound of key in lock. Perhaps I shall greet her as the friend she is, she who sings of what might have been, of what is lost, of what is found. Perhaps I will learn to hear her song, to listen for another, clearer tone. In a lyrical dance of mind and heart, I recognize that but for those choices, made and not made, I would be someone else. Life, I see, is one door opening as another closes. There is wisdom in her song, her embrace. The dread recedes as I recognize her, for the first time, the hundredth time. She is my Sibyl, my muse. Her touch is fire, then ice. She holds me in her ageless grasp, and urges me to learn, to choose, to live. Inside me, the clouds lift. Her face radiates in my mind. I know I am not done with her. Nor she with me. She is there. Behind the curtain of my mind, most days. Sometimes, in my bed.

No demented ex-roommate she. She is Sophia. She walks with God. She walks with me. Her wisdom hurts. Her wisdom heals. Without hesitation, I reach out, and unlock the door.


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