Passion vs. Getting Wound Up

I’ve been searching, rather haphazardly, for something that I can feel passionate about. I have half a dozen candidates — playing the piano, writing short stories, composing electronic music, and so forth — about all of which I feel rather lukewarm.

A couple of days ago I got into a lengthy email exchange with an acquaintance on the dual subjects of Israel and atheism. I feel pretty strongly about both topics. So naturally I started wondering, do I feel passionate about being an atheist? Is this the thing I’ve been searching for to give my life more meaning?

Something about that idea didn’t feel good. I felt stormy, cloudy, angry, upset. I’m coming to the conclusion that there’s a difference between feeling passionate and feeling wound up. Passion is a positive, life-enhancing thing. Being wound up about something is a dip in the turbulent waters of negativity.

I’d like to be forthright about my views, so that the religious yahoos won’t completely dominate public debate and public policy. But I can do that with a bumper sticker that says, “I’M AN ATHEIST, AND I VOTE.”

I need to remind myself that nothing I might say or do is likely to change the thinking of any religious person. These people are impervious to rational debate. If I try to reason with them, I’ll end up twitching and miserable, but nothing will change.

Knowing that you’re right is one thing; insisting on proving to other people that they’re wrong is a different thing. It’s more difficult, for starters. It makes you unpopular. It could easily lead to ulcers and high blood pressure. And it’s a waste of time. As someone once said to me, “How bad do you want to be right?” Like, how many hours per week would I like to be miserable? This is a choice I have the power to make.

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