Making Peace with “the Passions”

“But what about the passions?”

It was another philosophy class in college. We were discussing some abstruse intellectual topic. And my classmate Dave was interjecting — again — a lot of irrelevant chatter about “the passions.”

The passions were a big thing with him. He seemed like a decent enough guy, but I had no idea of what he was talking about.

The rest of us were discussing logic. He kept yammering about emotion, as if that had anything to do with anything.

Well, I apologize, Dave, wherever you are. I thought you were a nitwit. But you were smarter than I was, at least about that. I found out a few years later.

Ninety-nine point nine percent of the time, our lives make some kind of sense. Those times are good. I like it when things make sense.

But it’s in the final tenth of a percent that we find the reason for everything else. It’s where we encounter a power that we don’t expect, understand, or control.

It whisks us off the map of anything we believed was possible. It shows us wonders that we never before imagined. It changes us.

It’s in those moments that the rest of our life comes into perspective. It’s then that we finally feel at home in the world, and are damn glad to be here.

Those moments don’t make any sense. They don’t need to. They are self-justifying. They are the passions.

About N.S. Palmer

N.S. Palmer is an American mathematician.
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