Friday, July 31, 2009

Quote/Excerpt of the moment - Frankenstein - ...on Passion

I'm (finally) getting around to Frankenstein for the first time and finding it an interesting read. The following passage stood out to me and I figured I'd share it. Let me know your thoughts.
A human being in perfection ought always to preserve a calm and peaceful mind and never to allow passion or a transitory desire to disturb his tranquillity do not think that the pursuit of knowledge is an exception to this rule If the study to which you apply yourself has a tendency to weaken your affections and to destroy your taste for those simple pleasures in which no alloy can possibly mix then that study is certainly unlawful that is to say not befitting the human mind If this rule were always observed if no man allowed any pursuit whatsoever to interfere with the tranquillity of his domestic affections Greece had not been enslaved Caesar would have spared his country America would have been discovered more gradually and the empires of Mexico and Peru had not been destroyed.
- from Frankenstein, end of Chapter IV

Should our passions be condemned or exalted? Without passion, do we progress in peace and serenity? Or do we lay stagnate in complacency? Must passionate progress always result in disorder or destruction? By becoming overly passionate about a single endeavor, do we necessarily "weaken [our] affections and...taste for those simple pleasures" or can we still take pleasure in simple things while being engaged heavily in some singular area?

We're often counseled to take "moderation in all things." I've never looked to that advice as meaning we should avoid enthusiasm for particular things and rather seek out a placid view on life. I personally think it's necessary for passion to exist in order to advance vision and behavior. I think the warning (and I suspect Frankenstein may tell me the same in coming chapters) is that we should avoid taking our passion to a state of obsession. It is one thing to be enthusiastically striving after a worthy endeavor. It's another thing entirely to let that endeavor become the sole pursuit of our soul.

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