The Problems of Following Your Passions


Is it true, like many people might think, that happiness can only be attained, once we are to follow our passions? No, it is not necessarily, nor always, true. It’s of no truth because passion is not the only thing which fuels life, and thinking so may indicate a narrow mind.


Seeing passion as life’s ultimate goal is problematic when it comes to other people and other circumstances that are needed to be considered. Harmony, like passion, is very important not only as an aspiration, but to happiness on the moral level.


Let’s say there’s someone whose passion is listening to full volume, noisy music all the time, and that person lives in a neighborhood with full of other people, who prefer quiet and serenity. Let’s also say that with the absence of extremely loud music, the said person becomes bored, meaning - unhappy and unsatisfied.


One day, after giving up on accepting this reality of living, the person’s neighbor had enough with that music. Not only he hates it, he became so much annoyed, he couldn’t focus on doing his job - he was too busy being anxious thinking about home - to the point he was fired. Now, the neighbor is unemployed, and all because of that person with a huge appetite to loud music.

The neighbor knocks on the person’s door, but the person cannot hear the constant knocks because he’s too busy listening to a special song he really likes.


Eventually, the neighbor cannot handle it anymore, and calls the police. Short time after, 2 policemen fine the music person, such a heavy fine, he found that he cannot pay the rent he needs to pay at the end of the month, which will be, for instance, tomorrow.

Now is the question I return to you: The guy followed his passion: listening to loud music. Let’s also say he does not like headphones. Is he happy now, knowing he might be kicked off his apartment - because of his passion?


Problem.


You see, there are other things beside passion which are required for happiness and well-being. I’m not saying it’s bad to follow one’s passion, I claim that life is much more wider than the individual quest for happiness, and the things that reside in the wide zone may have huge impact on that happiness, for good and for bad.


The problem I find with what I call Rugged Individualism or the “I-Don’t-Give-a-Damn-ism” is that it is so narrow-minded, and having a narrow mind is the exact opposite of wisdom: why should I care for other’s suffering if I am better and more important than them? That is the headline of his popular approach to life.


Wisdom is all about looking at the big picture, and minding every aspect in that picture, and each of their relations to other aspects.


I assume that if the person in the scenario I gave would mind the presence of other neighbors, and their potential relations and responses with the person’s passion for music, he would be able to compromise for the big picture that is the building he lives in, and then no harm - or minimal harm - would be made (and of course he would have the money to make ends meet if he just was way more considerate).


One can be happy even if he does not pursuit his passion - other things in which he or she do not have that much of a passion towards, can make them happy regardless of their passions. I may want, for instance, to eat a candy. But no - the candy is not healthy for me. But it’s my passion. Perhaps if I ate something healthier I would be happier regardless of my passion for candies?

Besides, there is the criticism that passion isn’t happiness, but a type of misery. Are those who feel passion in their hearts can be automatically considered as happy people? Let’s say that one’s passion is drugs. He is so passionate about them, he becomes addicted, and when he cannot take a dose, he becomes depressed. Even if he would take a dose and thus have the sensation he seeks - he is well aware that he is in an infinite loop; a depressing loop that borderlines to despair… this is an example where following one’s passions do not bring happiness, but the exact opposite.


Ultimately, there are 2 conclusions from all of this: Passion alone is not always sufficient in the pursuit of happiness, and there are some passions that could lead to the exact opposite of happiness, even if they may give us short-term satisfaction beforehand. Thus, other factors should also be considered in the pursuit of happiness, from having good health, to avoiding justified, yet evitable, punishment.


Take note: I am not saying you should not follow your passions at all; I'm only saying that there are also other factors and circumstances to be considered, so the pursuit of your passions will not become an unnecessary double-edged sword.

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© 2019 Tomasio A. Rubinshtein, Philosopher