The use of the word "passion" has reached a breaking point. I have a hard time taking it seriously.
I don't object to it based on definition. I understand that saying someone is passionate about antiques is an accepted usage of the term, just as the Passion of Christ is also a thing.
What I object to is the commodification of the concept. Comedian David Mitchell has succinctly captured the way in which advertisers have reshaped the term for their own purposes, by claiming people working to pay the bills are "passionate" about what they do. Some people, apparently, would like to have their taxes prepared by a passionate human being. And that is precisely what opens the door to a subtler mess, in which we start to value passion as a concept.
Passion, whether an intense sexual desire, other strong emotion, or dedicated interest in gardening, is something that largely comes from within. It could be said that it's the drive a person has to share themselves with the world.
In Histoire de la sexualité, Michel Foucault explored how the way we talk about and think about sex has evolved over time. One of his main points is how we look back over the past few centuries as a time during which sexuality has been repressed, when in a sense during this time we've been exploring, defining and redefining sex. We've wanted to understand it and so have given it a special place where we can look at it and poke it with sticks.
We like to believe that people during Victorian times were repressed, while we are just the opposite. However, according to Foucault we may be similar to the Victorians for the fact that we place so much emphasis on sex in the first place. They may have valued keeping the lid on one's passions, but by doing so inadvertently placed value on what was underneath the lid. We, on the other hand, place value on what's underneath the lid by promoting the public display of it.
Regardless of how true this is, one's feelings and desires have become a marketable good, and not just in the strictest sense in terms of sex or money.
"Passionate" is a word that crops up on dating sites as well as on resumés. It's often seen as an indisputable good quality, which leads people to fake it. It leads to bouts of performance anxiety when people are asked to show, in words, gestures, and facial expressions, how passionate they are about, say, their family. About, say, cooking.
If they struggle to express their innermost feelings, what does this say about them? How does it devalue them as a human being? How much and what secrets and truths do we expect to emerge within a person to tell us that they are in fact a person? Where does it all end, exactly?