I used to stage operas for a living. It taught me a lot about passion.
Every night we told stories of Desire Jealousy Betrayal Deception and Revenge. Every night someone got Stabbed Poisoned Strangled Raped or Shot. And in the final scene the star sang their Regret Sorrow Pain.
Clearly, there was a pattern here.
The performances were always magnificent, the music was always spellbinding but the characters were always so… well, dumb.
They were all slaves to their emotions, helpless emotional puppets unable to delay their most basic impulses; passion victims with no capacity to think clearly until the stage was covered in fake blood.
Over the years, opera taught me that
1) our feelings are powerful but not always accurate
the stronger the emotion, the dumber the decision,
2) our first thoughts are not always our best work
it pays to have more than one idea before making a move
3) how we feel about something isn’t the only consideration.
the heat of the moment will pass but the consequences of stupid decisions or actions may last forever.
Of course, without hot-headed stupidity there’d be no story to tell; who wants to see calm, rational people methodically working through their assorted conflicts and misconceptions? Raw, blind emotions are central to our most enduring sagas and myths, the vital ingredient of everything from Homer to Shakespeare, Dickens to Verdi.
Our culture admires and celebrates passion; we expect it in our leaders we want it in our children and we seek it in our lives; passion is the magical life-force that drives us onto something great.
But if you want that something to be a great triumph instead of a great tragedy, listen to your brain, not your heart.