Commitment and Passio

Dear Ernest,

THE WORD PASSION comes from the late Latin theological term passio, which itself comes from the Classical Latin verb, pati, meaning ‘to suffer, undergo, or be acted upon’.  In theology, the term refers to something that English speakers might call ‘an emotion’ or ‘an affect’, that is, something that passively influences, but does not constitute, the wilful action of the soul.  So, for the thinkers of old, passion, far from being a quality of the soul, is rather something that occurs to it, some only partially voluntary process of gain and loss that may alter who a person is.

In your last letter: “At what point can we be certain – and with what consistency need this certainty last before being comfortable to make a calculated decision to continue to act in a prescribed manner?”

It would seem that commitment, generally speaking, is something that ought to be undertaken only by an agent per se, ‘of himself’, and not per accidens, ‘of a befalling, or by contingency’.  In other words, vows ought to be performed out of necessity, not pleasure.  While undergoing a passio may involve many acts by which an agent becomes more of one thing and less of something else, commitment is the ultimate product of those changes and is not itself a part of them.  Hence, Thaddeus ought only betroth himself to his “Choco-Peanut Butter Spheres” if, after however much alteration, he does in fact identify as a cereal lover, but he mustn’t do it simply because he loves cereal.

Your servant,


The Shaded Dawn

The shaded Dawn that sulks and Mourns the morning

With woeful Doves that requiem their sleep

Together prelude still and soft adorning…

The quiet brook that flows where willows weep

Passing gently by and swift absconding

In passion’s hast but tranquil waters deep…

The flaming autumn of the day And brilliant gloaming

That contends against the ends of the Earth to temporise

The fall of Dusk to Dark and Distant groaning

When necromantic wonders And phantasms arise—

This dying image of evanescent glory

That whispers secret augury to the few and perspicacious

Who mark the hour’s end and coming demise,

And oh how it marks with dread and fear of glory,

This image, that end!  But onward soul, be resolved and pertinacious;

Heed not this wisdom, but disobey your nature.

While yet the sacred morning mourns her loss

And evening ever evades it’s coming cross,

Assume an ardour more surreal and sublime

That transcends the idiotic bounds of verse and rhyme,

A timeless incandescence more furious in feature

Than that of a thousand deaths and damnéd demons

Who deride the day with divination of distant dreaded doom.

Nay, Love with the very force and agony of all this gloom,

For ’tis well to mark the wisdom dawn may give

That whoever dies for Love shall ever live.