Objective and Subjective Understanding: This is sort of funny to me. What I wrote in my, “Finding My Passions,” note is further explored in chapter two of C. Stephen Evans book, Kierkegaard: An Introduction. I will get to that in a moment. Evans goes on to distinguish Kierkegaard’s objective understanding and subjective understanding.
This is well illustrated from my last note. I read his chapter and sought to comprehend and understand it. That is an objective understanding. Then, I applied it to my own life and experience. This is the subjective understanding. In biblical interpretation, it is like doing the objective study of the text, and then, subjectively applying it your life.
Possibilities: Kierkegaard is considered the “father of existentialism.” He is a “modern” paradox to most: not an absolutist (about most things) AND a passionate believer. Anyway, humans exist in the way that other physical objects exist which includes possibilities. Possibilities may come in two forms: what may happen to the object and what the object may become. A rock may fall from a cliff, and a seed may become a tree.
What sets humans apart from other things is that they are aware of these possibilities. Maybe, we should say that they are conscious of the possibilities. This sets us apart from other physical objects. Specifically, it is through reflection and contemplation that we become aware of transcendent or eternal possibilities. We think about these possibilities, but thinking does not necessarily result in acting upon them.
Getting back to passions. We reflect on the potential action. This reflection could continue indefinitely, but why doesn’t it? Why do we stop thinking about a potential action? The point at which we stop thinking about a potential action and feel deeply that we must act is “passion.” SO… our action is a result of our passion.
Passion brings contemplation to a close. Passion causes action. Passion is the point at which the intellectual act moves to an emotional act. It makes the external action move from a potential or possible act, to actuality. In our thinking, many things are possible, but we are not passionate about them.
It is when we stop thinking and act that we discover our passion. It is not what we sit around thinking about, but what we feel deeply, deep down in our hearts, that moves us to action. To determine what we are passionate about, we must ask not, “What do I think the most about?” but “What moves me to action?”
*CATEGORIES OF PASSIONS: There is more to this than meets the eye. In reflecting on Kierkegaard and Evans, I came up with these categories. So, these are more my categories than Kierkegaard or Evans, but derived from them. There are immediate passions. There are mediate passions. There are unremitting passions.
Immediate passions pass. An immediate passion may be the “love at first sight” type passion. You feel an immediate need to pursue a relationship with this person. It is a strong emotion that moves you to sudden action. It is not always well thought out or reflected upon. It is a sudden thought that is acted upon. Immediate passions pass. They either disappear or become mediate passions.
Mediate passions expire. A mediate passion may be “for a season,” and then, it is gone. It moved you to action for a time. It may have been a passion for a few years, but you eventually let it go and do not return to it. It does not “morph” into a new shape or form. It vanishes like the shadow when the light shines upon it. Mediate passions end, or continue to become unremitting passions.
Unremitting passions last. The unremitting passion does not go away. It is a consistent passion over a long period of time. It may take on different shapes or forms, but it is really the same passion. It possesses an unchanging core. There may even be gaps in time, but even in the lesser times, it dwells just below the surface of your life. As much as you may want it to sink to the bottom of the ocean, you cannot get rid of it. This passion rises to the surface of your life time and time again.
The unremitting passion is mostly likely where you will find the eternal possibility for you. Try as you might, it is relentless possibility that will not let go of you. This approach is very experiential. Yet, it is where we live and breathe.
Emotions are important. While I distinguished between emotions and passion previously, the two are connected and inseparable. Passion includes emotion, but transcends it by action.
In the evangelical Christian world, we have downplayed, ignored, and attempted to suppress our emotions only to have our misunderstood emotional life hijack us at critical moments, and just as the Twin Towers fell on 9/11, our lives fall into a heap of charred debris upon the earth.
Too dramatic??? I’ve lived long enough now and have seen enough lives fall into that heap that I do not believe that this can be too dramatic. Just I can remember where I was when I saw the second plane fly into the tower, I can remember where I was when I saw a close friend’s life fall apart. I don’t think it is too dramatic.
CONTEMPLATING THE POSSIBILITIES: We must understand our emotional life in order to understand our passions in life. We can use various methods to contemplate the possibilities.
Examine the emotions and the passions. We need to ask some questions, “What kind of passion is this that I am experiencing?” “How long have I experienced it?” “Is it temporal or eternal?” “Does it give transcendent meaning to my existence?” “Is this the passion that God has raised me up to for?”
Evaluate our passions. “Are they worthy of our existence?” “Are they valuable enough to move us to action?” “Where will they lead us?” We must not allow our passions to hijack us, but instead, we must make choices as to which passion is worthy of our existence and follow those passions.
Use thought experiments. Another technique that Kierkegaard uses is the imaginative “thought experiments” to bring various possibilities to life. Evans says, “I philosophical thought experiment is… an attempt to imaginatively present a character or situation that will clarify and test our conceptual intuitions” (2009). A contemporary example may be the fictional works of Peter Kreeft. Take a possibility and think it through. Examine the various ways in which this may guide your life.
These are some ideas for considering your passions. More to come…
Evans, C. Stephen. Kierkegaard: An Introduction (New York: Cambridge University, 2009).