Tuesday, December 27, 2011


"Our doubt is our passion, and our passion is our task." --henry james

if you play the "if a = b and b = c" game with this statement, our doubt is our task.

now you could take that to mean 'our task is to face and overcome our doubt', and you wouldn't be wrong, per se, but i don't think that's what mr. james was getting at here. not quite.
i think he is trying to say that the things we take the time to doubt are the ones that we want most to put our faith into. they are the things we want to throw ourselves at wholeheartedly, to delve into fully, to plumb the depths of, in order to have our doubt proven wrong*. those things we will grope in the dark for, forge paths, possibly trip and fall, the ones we are willing to do whatever we can for because they are the things worth failing at. cuz when something has caught your passion, there isn't a damned thing you can do about it, except to just hunker down and work at it. by virtue of becoming something your whole self can be thrown at, by taking hold of you, your passion becomes the thing you must do with all your might: your task.

further proof:

"what you risk reveals what you value" --jeanette winterson from The Passion
"what will you risk? ... i like to smell the urgency on them [the gamblers]... it's somewhere between fear and sex. passion, i suppose." --ibid

now we have the 'equation' of passion revealing your desire to risk something, and risking something revealing the fact that you value it. which actually means that valuing something creates passion. and that sounds a bit like a 'duh' moment, but i don't think it is, quite. it does, however, seem to mesh well with the first 'equation'.
both of these quotations and their associated logical conclusions have key steps, namely, doubt and risk, which are related concepts dealing with the unknown. passion, being the only element these processes share, seems to traffic in the currency of the unknown. or at least, it is in the business of desiring to know (biblically or no) and i can't think of a better way to understand something standing right in between fear and sex**.
which means now we have passion standing right in between, not just fear & sex, but between risk & value, and doubt & task. which sounds about right. i'm not saying these pairs are the same thing necessarily, but that in all three cases one starts with a feeling of uncertainty and ends with a decisive action. passion is what gets us from one to the other.

so how is it that passion has become such a catalyst? i have no fucking clue. except what i said earlier about once it has kicked in there is really nothing to do but follow it thru to its logical conclusion--to do the thing that has you so enthralled. i've finally stopped avoiding the thing i'm most passionate about and am working on the follow thru. cuz the thing about big tasks, the things you really value, they take a lot of work. and they deserve a lot of work. and sometimes halfway thru them you realize the fear and doubt and risk are greater than when you started. cuz now you have something you have put your energy, your passion, into and now there is something to lose if you quit. so the key to keep from despairing before finishing this thing you were passionate about starting is to make this doubt/passion/task cycle a self-perpetuating feedback loop that can keep you motivated all the way to the end of the task. doubt creates passion which motivates starting the task which breeds doubt which triggers passion which pushes to finish the task...and so on, till you are done.

at least that how i'm hoping it works. halfway thru a first draft on the hamlet novel and i fell prey to doubt about my ability to finish the book. december has been a breather, a time for breeding the passion to continue the work that will lead to the completion of my task. my best gal and sounding board for every idea i've ever had just spent a week talking story and character with me--getting me back in the habit--starting with movies we watched, then moving on to a movie we want to write, then this afternoon allowing me to spew about the book, which got me passionate about it again. cross your fingers for me that this bout of passion will last thru the rest of the first draft before the doubt sneaks in again.

JaNoWriMo, let's do this.

Make it happen, vanek!

* much like the c.s. lewis brand of apologetics: coming at faith from a skeptic's point of view
** fear, like doubt and risk, is also based on the unknown, and sex deals with the knowledge of another. so passion is the step in between not knowing and knowing, ie, the desire to know.

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