HAPPINESS AND PASSION
Opinion and fact of passion: Passion outcast as unworthy of man
It is a part of our American heritage, or perhaps more properly, our Anglo-Saxon heritage, to look upon passion much as a family arrived in society might look on a poor relation. It is something to be ashamed of, frowned on, denied in public, to regret. A severely reserved attitude seems much more worthy of us as men than does passion. So we go about looking very solemn in a silly way, like children desperately suppressing a giggle or a flood of tears, whistling to prove to ourselves and the world that we really are not afraid in spite of the knocking of our knees or the chattering of our teeth. Yet this puritanical attitude makes generous allowance for such passions as sorrow, anger or desperation; and its champions positively revel in the sticky mists of sentiment which enable their minds to become hopelessly confused in a mild, genteel way.
Passion enthroned as all of man
At the opposite extreme we have the fairly recent importation which identifies passion with all that is best in man. Thus all of man’s troubles — nervous, domestic, social or even physical — have their root in the fact that he has not given his passions full play. To be fully a man, one’s passion must have had full sway from the days of infancy; otherwise a man is a neurotic or a weakling. It does not seem to be of any importance that following such a procedure man turns out to be a beast; perhaps because down in the hearts of the champions of this attitude, that is really what man is, merely another animal.
The clash of these extremes has tended to divide modern opinion into two camps, both of which are deadly enemies of the perfectly evident facts of human nature. No matter how many hours he spends practicing facial immobility before a mirror, no man can tell himself that he does not feel love, desire, fear, hatred and the rest. No matter how loudly he may champion the virility of giving full play to his passions, every man knows that his actions are truly human only when they are under his control; and every man is thoroughly ashamed, or at least considerably embarrassed, at the note of insanity, of inhumanity, that rings out so discordantly from his uncontrolled acts. Children learn very early that the very best time to ask for extraordinary favours is shortly after their father has thoroughly lost his temper.
Somewhere between these two extreme opinions the facts of human life slip by, and placidly pursue their prosaic way, utterly indifferent to the ebb and flow of the battle which no one ever wins and where both sides are always vanquished.
Passion welcomed as part of man
Wherever there is a man, there will be found passion; and wherever there is human activity, there also is control, an actual aiming at a target by man himself. These two indisputable and obvious facts really tell the story of passion; an old, old story which has been told in countless ways, none more simple than by saying that man has a body and a soul. Because he has a living body, complete in its equipment for sensitive or animal life, passion is an integral part of his nature, as it is of the nature of all animals. But because he is not a living body but a rational being in control of his acts, passion can never be all there is to man. To deny passion is to deny the animal life of man in the face of such obvious facts as the necessity of breakfast; to make passion the full explanation of human activity is to deny intelligence — something that could not be done without intelligence, however unintelligent such a denial might be.
Perhaps even taxi-drivers enjoy a thrill of novelty in examining the latest models of automobiles: there is always some new gadget, some improvement, or alleged improvement, which puzzles the most experienced driver. The parts of the human machine are much more standardized; in fact no change has been made in the model, of which we have any historical record. Realizing that we have been driving this machine for years and years, it is no surprise to discover that we cannot be surprised. A statement of the nature of passion will bring nothing amazing; it has been a part of us from the very beginning and is as familiar as our own face, or our own hands. It is in fact a little surprising that men can quarrel so about it, particularly when it can be adequately described as nothing more than the movement of the sense or animal appetite in man.
Fact of passion is its own full explanation It is as simple as that. Very often “emotion” is used to describe what we are calling passion, the word “passion” being reserved for emotion with its cap tilted toughly over one eye. There is no argument with such usage as long as the meaning intended is made clear. But it does leave us without a name for the movements of the rational appetite or will. It seems much better to reserve the name emotions for any movement of any appetite of man, passion exclusively for the movements of the sense appetite. It is in this sense that we will use the word passion throughout this and the succeeding chapters.
Definition and characteristics of passion: Relation to knowledge
Taken in this strict sense, we can expect of passion what we know to be true of any appetite, i.e. that it follows knowledge. Knowing is not its work any more than hearing is the work of the eye; nor can it know any more than the eye can hear. It was not built for that. But unless something is known and presented to it, appetite can never operate. A man who has never heard of baseball does not waste his time writing for a ticket to a game. And that same thing is equally true of every animal; it is only very recently that dogs began to desire dog biscuits. Like every movement of appetite, passion must come from a faculty whose job is precisely the job of desiring. It belongs in the faculty of desire much as vision belongs in the organ of sight. Passion as a movement of sense appetite can be immediately located in the organ of sense desire. It belongs in the body of man; if at any time it wanders into the apartments of the soul it is only by accident, merely became the two are so closely connected that it is remarkably easy to pass from one to the other like an echo running upstairs, or an insoluble problem in mathematics bringing tears to a child’s eyes in the midst of his homework. In this way the sorrow in the soul of Christ penetrated to His body, and the gloom of a rainy day penetrates to our soul.
Like all sense activity, passion involves some corporal changes. The word passion, in its widest sense, has the signification of receiving something, of suffering or submitting to action, receiving an action within ourselves. In this very wide sense, we might suffer an idea, receiving an idea through the activity of material objects upon us. However ideas, and everything received in the spiritual part of man, are acquired without suffering in the sense of corporal change. It is the thing which must be changed to enter into the spiritual area of our being rather than that our spiritual side be changed to accommodate the material thing. But this is not the case in the sensible part of man. I remember talking to a cook who assured me he never had to eat because he was constantly inhaling food. Perhaps he did not eat. But assuredly he did not adhere to even this delicate form of nourishment without corporal, physical changes. The whole question of passion is in the sensible order; and sensible contact involves sensible changes. A man will flush with anger, pale with fear, his heartbeats quicken with desire, his muscle tense with hate — whatever the passion and however profound the physical changes involved, physical changes there must be. An expressionless face and long training may hide many of these changes; but the lie-detector is just one source of evidence of the impossibility of ruling these corporal changes out of existence when passion comes into play.
Goodness and evil
From all this it is fairly evident that no amount of puritanical shrinking can confer the dignity of morality upon passion in itself; just as no amount of case records can sum up humanity in terms of pardon. We have seen in the preceding chapter that a moral action and a human action are exactly the same thing; and the most unlettered man of the street demands the brand of control, of mastery, before he will accept any action as genuinely human. Morality is inextricably tied up with the control of action. And passion is merely subject to control; it can be controlled or it can get out of control, which is to say it can be either human passion or animal passion, or, saying the same thing in another way, it can be moral, immoral or amoral. Of itself, like everything in the sensible order, it is morally indifferent. Physically, passion is good, an integral element in the well-being of man; but morally it is what we make it.
On the purely material side, these are the things we find always and inevitably in makers of passion: some knowledge — “sensation, percept, imagery, idea”; — movement of the appetite, i.e. “a tendency to merge with some external object or to adjustment bringing some change perceptible as agreeable or disagreeable”; and finally dome organic, corporal changes which are nothing more than the recognition of stimulus “discharge of nerve energy, physiological resonances”. It is in the second of these, the movement of sense appetite, that passion essentially consists. The first knowledge, is an indispensable condition for passion as colour is for seeing; the last, corporal change, an inevitable effect following passion like a fall follow. loss of balance.
Modern investigations have served to confine the nature of passions. There have been so many scientific bloodhounds back and forth over the trail of passion that a hound set on the trail now can hardly be blamed if he chases some other dog instead of keeping after the quarry. Science is of course strictly within its rights in investigating this whole problem of passion. After all, it is a question of the sensible order, an order for which the whole equipment of science was designed. And the findings of science have been overwhelming in their detail and of incalculable value. Their very number and value, instead of excusing them from the demands of order, rather demand more attention to order; as an overcrowded desk is a more convincing argument for orderly arrangement than is the desk of the lawyer newly admitted to the Bar.
Going through the terms intimately connected and often confused with the movements of the sensible appetite which is passion, the differences are startlingly clear once they are pointed out, like the defects in a masterpiece or a precious stone once attention has been called to them.
Distinction of passion: From reflexes.
Compared to the reflex-arc which plays such a mighty part in behaviouristic psychology, passion is as different as the dog’s grinding on a bone is different from the hum of a meat-grinding machine. A reflex is what happens, for example, in the winking of the eye when a doctor tries to pour drops into it. It is an immediate and mechanical reaction, totally unconscious, which makes no demands on previous knowledge. Passion is a conscious affair which cannot dispense with previous knowledge.
Feeling is the “affective tone of sensation, pleasant or unpleasant”, like the overtone of a resonant tinging voice, and is a radical pre-requisite of passion rather than passion itself. This affective tone can no more be separated from sensation than a smile can be cut off a face and put away in moth-balls. And sensation is at the roots of knowledge.
Instincts stand at the end of the scale opposite from feelings. Briefly, an instinct is “a function with a physiologica1 and a psychological foundation, a complicated behaviour pattern purposive in character usually operating for the benefit of the individual or race”. It includes cognitive, appetitive and motive functions. Like passion, it is decidedly conscious; it is not a mechanical chain of reflexes. In it passion plays its part; but to identify passion with instinct is like identifying yeast with bread.
Reflexes, feelings, passion, instincts are all part of our natural equipment. They do not have to be laboriously acquired. As an indication of the truth of that statement, we have only to look at the difference in the distribution of knowledge or money and the distribution of reflexes, passion and instincts. Habits, on the contrary, are distinctly the product of our activity; we have habits because we build them up. We can be proud of them or ashamed of them as a man is proud or ashamed of his world. But if we have pride or shame in our instinct, passions or reflexes we have little to do and we have not used our leisure for thought.
Generic Varieties of passion: mild (concupiscible) and emergency (irascible).
It is a fact, which by the way I will not attempt to explain, that the English language lends itself much more easily to arguments on politics than to philosophical exposition. Certainly it is not became of any scarcity of English words; we have so many we can throw them about with the utmost abandon. But looking through those thousands of English words for an exact expression of a philosophical notion is like thumbing through a box full of old keys in the vain hope of finding just the one which will open the door. It is not so surprising, then, that it is difficult to find words which will fit the generic classification of the passions. We can lift words over directly from the Latin and divide the passions into “concupiscible” and “irascible” passions — and probably frighten some readen into abandoning this book. Or we can use the term employed quite recently, and call them “mild” and “emergency” passions; and put ourselves in the position of maintaining, for example, that love or daring is a mild passion!
Whatever the name, the distinction is based on the fact that one set of these passions has to do simply with good or evil, no other consideration coming into play. These are the mild or concupiscible passions. The object of the other set of passions adds to the notion of good and evil that of difficulty; these are the emergency or irascible passions.
Translated into concrete terms, this means that all the activities of our sense appetite can be summed under two headings: its loss or gain of the good and its struggle with difficulties, two phases with which every one of us is familiar.
Specific: Love and hate, Desire and flight, Delight and sorrow.
We shall treat every one of the passions in detail, starting in this chapter with love and hate. Instead, then, of stopping at each one for a miniature picture, let us try to get one sweeping view that will accurately locate each of these power houses of sensitive activity. Take, for example, the man to whom a long morning’s sleep has been presented as an eminently agreeable, a good thing. He loves sleep whether he is actually enjoying it, looking forward to it, or merely remembering the one he had yesterday; with equal heartiness he hates insomnia whenever and however it is brought before his consciousness. He has been invited to his brother’s place in the country for a quiet week-end and tonight as he rushes home on the subway he looks forward with eager desire to a long, refreshing sleep. Actually arriving at his brother’s place, be learns that the neighbouring orphanage has burnt down and his brother is harbouring twenty-five orphans of tenderest age. He immediately takes the next train back to town in panicky flight from the inevitable insomnia that will rob him of his precious sleep; but the train is caught in a blizzard and he spends a miserable, back-breaking night in the smoking-car in profound sorrow at the loss of his sleep. The next night he makes up for all this and has the satisfying pleasure or delight in a long, long night’s sleep.
Hope and desperation, Daring and fear, Anger.
Let us suppose there were no trains back to town that night. Here certainly is the place for emergency passions. Sleep will represent some difficulties; but the women of the house assure him these children are well trained, they are accustomed to getting to sleep very early and if he will do his part by rocking, say, ten of them to sleep everything will be well. So with high hope of overcoming the difficulty he sets about the business of rocking the children to sleep. When he has reached number four, he realizes that it is not every night orphans have a fire — there is number one awake again for the third time. Despair creeps in; if this keeps up he will never get to sleep himself. Something must be done about it. With a daring extraordinary in so self-conscious a mans puts all the children in bed and tries to sing them to sleep in mass formation. A few minutes of this makes him realize the hopelessness of the situation and he gives way to fears, the fear that there will be no sleep to night. He finally gets angry about it, and the women of the house who rush in thinking another fire and panic have started, only increase his anger. He turns on the children viciously, shouting them down and announcing to all and sundry that the first one that so much as whimpers will have his ears bitten off. This immediately creates a homey atmosphere again, the children feel safe and sound once more and immediately drop off to sleep. The evil of insomnia has been routed.
Mutual relations of passions
A closer scrutiny of this example will show quite easily and quickly this interrelation of the passions. If this unfortunate individual did not love and desire sleep, looking forward to the pleasure of its possession, he would have known no hope, desperation, daring, fear or anger. The all-night taxi-driver does not mind excitement at any time of the night. It is always true that the mild or concupiscible passions are at the root of the emergency passions; in fact emergencies are radically due to the activities of the milder passions. An utterly bored individual has no use for emergency passions because nothing can interest him, nothing can arouse his mild or concupiscible passions.
Quite evidently, then, at the very root of the activity of the passions are love and its opposite, hate. If we wish to single out the most important of the remaining passions, we would not go wrong in picking hope, fear, joy and sadness. And the common bond tying thae together, their common claim to importance, is the note of finality which rings out from each one, whether its peal be joyous or lugubrious. Hope stands last in the passions of pursuit (I love, I desire, I hope); fear holds the last place in the passions of escape (I hate, I fly, I fear); and at the very end of all passion’s activities we have joyous possession or sorrowful loss. Anger, of all the passions, alone stand” in proud isolation; it has no opposite, for its opposite — meek submission to an evil actually present — does not involve the activity of appetite but rather is a denial of this activity. At any rate the hero of our story is finally asleep.
Theories of passions:
Resultant — Lange, James; Concomitant — McDougall;Emergent — Cannon; Sexual — Freud; Scholastic.
The man has earned his sleep. Quiet has descended on the house, leaving us free to seek our excitement elsewhere. And there is no better place to find it than in the halls of science. Looking into this problem of passion, experimental psychology has arrived at various theories as to the nature of passion and where passion is to be located. One of the earlier opinions, that of James and Lange, identified passion with the bodily movements which are always found with passion. What we call passion is the result of organic and physiological changes; each distinctive passion is differentiated by the physiological changes in the subject of that passion. McDougall comes much closer to the truth when he ties emotion and instinct very closely together; but he tied the knot too tight. In his opinion each passion is always an indication and constant feature of some instinctive process; they always travel in pairs, one emotion to one instinct, with emotion the unchanging core of instinctive behaviour and instinct the great driving force of human activity. Cannon, who, with Sherrington, experimentally criticized James’ theory and proved that different emotions could not be differentiated on the basis of distinctive physiological characteristics, thought that the passions flow out (emerge) on the occasion of the animal organisms encountering certain stimuli or situations and mobilizing the resources of the body for an unusually strong response. Freud simplified the whole thing, lowering it to a plane where everyone could talk about it, by tracing all emotion to the master instinct of sex. The driving force of this master instinct, libido, is fundamentally a basic desire for the preservation of the race; and however innocent the particular passion may appear, it has a relation to the master, sex.
All these, with the possible exception of McDougall, make the mistake of interpreting the passions in terms of the purely physiological. The scholastics insisteted that passion was a phenomenon of the whole animal unit, involving psychical as well as physiological activity. They explained it as we have in this chapter, an explanation that really meets all the facts in the case.
Love: Double method of treatment: experiment and contrast.
There is, for example, the matter of love. It has its explanations. We can set about explaining love in experimental fashion, that is in laboratory fashion, by subjecting all of its physical characteristics to experiment; or we can attack it more philosophically by contrasting the passion of love with the higher emotion of rational love, constantly etting one off against the other as a jeweller brings out the brilliance of a gem by the sombre majesty of the case in which it reposes.
The last method presupposes two kinds of love in every human being, a supposition that is by no means gratuitous when we remember that man has two appetites and love is the basic movement of appetite. In fact with one or the other missing, man would be no man but merely animal or utterly angelic. Fortunately man continues to be man.
Varieties: natural, sensitive, rational
As a matter of fact, by extending the term a little, we can distinguish three kinds of love. In love’s most essential meaning — the first response of appetite to an object known as agreeable, good, fitting to the particular nature involved — we can distinguish the response of plants to rain, of dogs to meat and of men to truth. The difference which irrevocably distinguishes the first from the other two, is that the knowledge followed is not the knowledge of the plant itself, but of its Maker. The plant loves rain in the sense that while the rain is good for the plant and the plant responds to this goodness, it does not know that rain is good; it mercy follows a blind drive of nature. Both animals and men, however, have knowledge and it is their individual knowledge which leads on their particular appetites.
Of course all three are to be found in man: there is the response of his lungs to air, of his sense appetite to a cooling wind on a hot day, of his rational appetite or will to the generosity of Calvary. It is these last two in which we are principally interested at present.
Division: selfish and benevolent
To make the contrast between these two more striking, we have only to look back over a day or two of our lives. We have no difficulty in recognizing innumerable examples of selfish love. It must be understood that this word “selfish” is not used in a derogatory sense. It is merely descriptive of that type of love which seeks to assimilate the objects it desires, which seeks to swallow them up in itself, the love that puts in exactly the same class our love of a beefsteak, of a house, of a chair, of a book or even sometimes of friends. It is best expressed by the idea of ownership; this chair, this book, this house is mine, I own it, it is a part of me. This is the difference between having friends and owning friends. Selfish love has no regard for the substantial nature or personality of the thing or person loved except as it belongs to or is a part of the one loving. Absolutely all animal love, or the love of passion, is of this type.
In contrast to this is beneficent love which indudes the true love of friendship and the love we have for God. Instead of seeking to gobble up the thing loved, figurativey or literally, it has a profound regard for the individuality of the object of love. It does not aim at assimilation, at destruction, or possession of the object of love; but rather sees in the loved one another self. It is a multiplication of self rather than an aggrandizement of self; it promotes the intimate union demanded by love through union of will. This other self is the object of my efforts precisely because he is another self. What he desires is my desire, what offends him offends me, what thwarts his happiness thwarts mme, for we are one.
Rational love, the response of our will to good, can be either of the beneficent or of the selfish type. So it is possible to love a man because he is very wise in order to assimilate some of his wisdom; or because he is very virtuous in order to advance in holiness — neither of these can be the product of the passion of love, yet both are of the selfish or assimilative type.
Whether the love be rational love or the love of passion, the underlying causal are always the same and, very strangely, are remarkably simple and clear to the eye of the philosopher. The sweet mystery of love is not mysterious in its causes but in the infinite possibilities of the human heart for action in the name of that love. For there are just three causes of love, causes that are not mutually exclusive but rather one builds up to and is included by the other. They are goodness, knowledge, and similarity.
Causes: good, knowledge, similarity
Knowledge is an indispensable condition for all love, as it is for all movement of appetite; the dream girl the bachelor seeks is not a creation but a composite of realities that have at one time or another entered into the bachelor’s knowledge. It is not from love but from curiosity that a dog approaches his first dog biscuit. When people do not know quite as much about their partners as they thought they did, there is often more material for argument than for love. The element of goodness is no less fundamental, for goodness is the one and only object that attracts any movement of the appetite. No matter how scrawny or moronic a child may look, there is goodness there or there could be no love on the part of its mother. It is not nearly so true that love is blind as it is that love has a much more penetrating eye, plumbing the depths of a human individual and often finding pearls of great price overlooked by all others. Even the most utterly depraved of men who have sold their souls to vice, can be loyal to that vice only because they see it under the guise of good. This much at least must always be true: whatever or whoever wins our love must wear the robes of goodness or instantly suffer the loss of that love.
We have often noticed that very handsome men are an easy prey for very homely girls and vice versa; very vicious dogs seem to run with very timid pets; interminable talkers have excellent listeners for friends, and so on. We shrug it all off by saying “opposites attract”. As a matter of fact in the field of love they do not, they repel. The attraction is similarity, a similarity that even a cursory examination quickly reveals.
We have said that beneficent love, or the love of friendship, sees the person loved as another self. Where this other self has our same qualities and excellencies in its actual possession, such an extension or re-birth of self is easy, natural. Remember now it is not a question of identity, but of similarity; the love springs from the precise points of agreement. We submit to this reasoning when we nod wisely and agree that “they were made for each other”, “they are a perfect match”. But we are apt to be irritated about the matches that are not so perfect, in the sense of not being so obvious; and in these cases we do not hesitate to contradict ourselves and nature by calling upon the moth-eaten doctrine of the attraction of opposites.
The real solution is that in the latter case we are dealing with another type of similarity. Here it is no longer a question of both having the same qualities in their actual possession, but rather of one actually possessing some good and the other only potentially, or hopefully, in possession of it. It is from this type of similarity that the love of passion, and of friendship whose ends are utility or pleasure take their rise. The good listener has dreamed of being a great conversationalist and the very plain man has had visions of leaving whole clusters of girls stunned by his manly beauty.
Sometimes this works just the other way around, and instead of causing love it will cause envy and hatred, as, for example, when the excellence of another is conceived as standing in the way of our own perfection rather than contributing to it. So we have the refreshing varied offered by human life: we see strong men surrounded by weak ones who give undying loyalty, other strong men hindered, fought, even murdered by weaker men who resented this strength as an impediment to their own progress. We find wise men surrounded by fools; or wise men working hand in hand with other wise men towards greater wisdom; or wise men fighting wise men to the death, not because of their mutual wisdom, but because of what wisdom each was lacking.
It is a sobering thought, this realization that the objects of our love are so many mirrors giving us back accurate pictures of what we are or what in our hearts we would like to be. But it is still more sobering to step into the realms of love’s effects.
Effects:: union, inherence, ecstasy, zeal
We cannot possibly treat the effects of love adequately in this chapter; indeed, they will never be adequately known and appreciated this side of heaven. But at least we can touch upon these effects briefly. There is first and obviously the effect of union: the union of similarity in the very cause of love, the union of affection in our appetite’s stretching out to the good loved or setting it up as another self, finally the resultant union that comes of love’s coupling bond, either by assimilation or by the birth of another self. This latter is a union approaching as closely to identity as is possible without the destruction of either the lover or the loved and is best expressed in the reception of Holy Communion.
Just how close that union is can be made plain by a little insistence on the second effect of love — inherence. The very word indicates that the bond of love makes the parties concerned very nearly essential parts one of another. Taken literally it means that one inheres, exists in, the other. Perhaps that sounds exaggerated; but let us look at the facts. The person or thing loved is never out of our minds; our minds are like a home where the thing or person loved moves about with complete familiarity, leaving an impress on every thought, every image, every memory, and once the thing or person loved has passed out of our lives, our minds are left in a condition comparable only to a lonely, desolate, decaying house. This intimacy is not less but rather greater on the side of affection. If it is a question of the passion of love, there is either complete joy in the presence of the thing or person loved, or restless, haunting, driving desire for that presence. Rational love is calmer but no less intense, making the friend as close to our affections as we ourselves are, and stamping every good we wish that friend with the mark of its destination — to our other self.
That is only one side of the union — the presence of the object of love in the lover. Why can the lover never be content with a superficial knowledge of the object of his his love? What are the endless trifling things that lovers find to talk about? The answer to both these questions is found in the very necessity of the one loving to ponder, to inquire, to mull over and over every single thing pertaining to the object of his love. No, love is not blind, for always it must probe, must penetrate until it gets to the very heart of the one loved. Very simply, the mind of the lover inheres in, buries itself in, the thing loved.
And even more truly is the lover in the loved from the side of affection. So the passion of love will not be satisfied with mere possession, even with mere enjoyment of that possession; it goes further and seeks perfectly to assimilate the object to itself, to penetrate its inmost depths. That is why the ancient philosopher could so truly say a man is what he loves; whether that object be very far below and utterly unworthy of a man, or very high, even infinitely, above him — where his love is there is a statement of what this man is. For unlike the intellect which lifts up or drags down all things to its own level, the appetite must go out to the thing loved. If it be love of friendship, so deeply is the affection of the lover plunged into the one loved that good done to the friend is a personal good; evil done to our friends is evil done to us. We are, as far as is possible in this life, not two but one.
All the other effects of love really follow from these two. By “ecstasy” St. Thomas means here “being carried out of oneself”, and surely if our minds and our hearts are buried in another, we are carried out of ourselves. Probably one of the reasons why the ordinary business house is willing to let an employee go off on a honeymoon is because long experience has shown that at that time he is not worth his salt in the office. After all, if a professor can be so immersed in a mathematical problem as to forget about dinner, what can we expect of a man who is immersed in the intense contemplation of love? This is the reason why women can live out their lives in miserable hovels in the name of love and be supremely happy; why men can dedicate their lives to a drudgery of uninteresting work; and why children can slave for parents until their own lives are nearly gone — and all be happy in the doing of these things for love. These people are working for their other selves; what contributes to the happiness of their loved ones is their happiness even though it mean the utmost of personal pain and suffering as it did, for example, to Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane.
Of course, what is evil for our friends is evil for us and is fiercely resented; or, in the passion of love, what interferes with our possession of the desired good meets with our immediate opposition. This is “zeal” in the sense St. Thomas uses it here. An intense movement to exclude everything repugnant to our love, its intensity is in exact proportion to the intensity of our love, a very valuable norm, by the way, for judging the place of anything or any person in our lives.
Appreciation: Its value; Its effectiveness.
Does love do any harm? Is it dangerous? Well — ! Anything as powerful as love can be dangerous; but it should not be. Its whole purpose is to supply us with perfection, to complete our nature. Certainly the love of friendship, beneficent, unselfish love, has no harm in it at all and can do nothing but constantly build up its possessor, working out the paradox that sacrifice is the most perfect way to the fullness, the perfection of our nature. But the selfish, assimilative type of love can be deadly, particularly when it fixes itself on an object unworthy of or dangerous to man. In fact any love is as deadly as the object loved; and this makes the eternally momentous difference between love of God and love of sin — always our appetite finds the level of the thing it loves. The material element in the passion of love, like the material element in any passion, can be dangerous in its excess. Men have been known to rupture a blood vessel or die of apoplexy in a fit of anger; and people have lost all desire for food and physically pined away in the name of love. Every passion involves some corporal, organic changes; and than changes can be carried to the point of organic destruction.
One more point. Put very simply by St. Thomas it is “love is the cause of all things the lover does”. We can make this absolutely universal and say that love is the cause of all things that anyone does; and immediately we have furnished ourselves with material for infinite consideration. Think of that and then look terrifying complexity of human activity, the viciousness of diabolic activity, or the almighty activity of God himself! Or loolc at our own activities in the light of that statement and again we have an accurate indicator of that with which our heart is busiest.
Hate: Object and cause: evil and love
There is little excuse for a man’s ignorance of where his treasure really lies. Our zeal, the objects of our love, our activities, even our hatreds, are indicators of where our love is centred. For if there were no love there could be no hatred. A man without hates comes very close to being no man at all; for he is a man without loves and consequently a man without a goal, without an excuse for any activity whatsoever. An extremely broadminded man very nearly answers this description. We hate those things that are directly contrary to the things we love, as a woman who fancies cats will often hate the very sight of dogs. Very often a surprise awaits the man or woman who looks closely at the hatreds they cherish in search of the object of love which inspired that hatred. Of the two, love is the stronger, strong enough indeed, to cause hate; but of course we might very easily hate spinach more than we love parrots. Men and women have often twisted this truth of love’s strength in the face of hate, but the mistake has its basis in the fact that hate is often more strongly felt than is love There is no rest for hate, except in the climax of love; hate as long as it exists is a fiery, consuming passion, but love finds a quiet joy in the possession of the good desired — yet does not cease to be love.
Conclusion. Balance of passions
Let us sum up this chapter briefly, much more briefly than the subject-matter deserves. It Is not a sufficient excuse for gluttony or drunkenness to say that man has a natural desire for food and drink; nor is it a sufficient excuse for uncontrolled passion to say that the passion is natural. Of course it is natural, but whatever it is, it is only one of a host of natural passions. To allow one to run to excess is to snuff out some of the others, a decidedly unnatural proceeding. In the animals this balance of passion is kept instinctively and is thrown out of gear only by some extrinsic, necessary, physical cause. But in man that balance is kept by the command of reason and can be thrown out of gear at the pleasure of the individual. It is not natural for man to let any one passion take over the command of his life, for the essence of his human activity consists in its control by reason. Passion acting naturally in a man is passion acting under the control of reason.
Passion and human nature
To be lacking this or that passion is not subject-matter for a boast. No one boasts of being a freak; and the man or woman lacking any one of these passions is a freak. As a matter of fact, if such a statement were made, it would very properly be the subject of considerable doubt; as though a person were to smile gently and say in a pitiful voice: “You know, I have no brain.” It would be at least unusual. Passion is an integral part of the nature of man.
Passion and human activity
More than that, it is an integral part of the source of motive power in man. All the drive behind human activity comes from the appetites of man, sensitive or rational; and passion is the natural movement of the sensitive appetite. It is not surprising that passion plays such a part in our activities — it should, for our two appetite are so closely connected they inevitably react one on the other. Under the control of reason, passion can be as much of a help to human activity, as out of control it can be of harm. Normally our natural equipment is not handed out in lopsided portions. There is usually a definite proportion between the power of the sensitive and the power of the rational appetite. To be the possessor of very strong passion is not a guarantee of a one-way ticket to hell; it is rather the statement of very great possibilities either for evil or for good, for loving greatly, wholeheartedly. The development of those possibilities is a question of the object on which we fix our love. The conversion and lifelong loyalty of Mary Magdalen had their psychological as well as their supernatural explanations, as did the wise choice of Peter to be the successor of Christ as leader of the Apostles.
Passion and happiness
Happines is the reward of human activity and the measure of man’s steady steps towards his goal. Just as passion cannot constitute human activity, it cannot constitute human happiness. It is our common heritage with the brutes; what happiness it can give alone is brute pleasure that has always the taste of ashes in the mouth of a man. Passion can contribute mightily to happiness, as it can contribute mightily to the activity of man; passion can work mightily against happiness as it can operate mightily against the control that is the essence of human action. But whether passion, strong or weak, leads to happiness or away from it is in the hands of each man.