Childhood passion vs adult interest

Childhood as personal Golden Age

Scientology and Landmark (and even Ayn Rand) hold up childhood as the Beatific Ideal and the Lost Essence of self.

Remember when you were a child …


The advantage of child-mind is that it is beginner’s mind. Not pre-knowing means that any object is a candidate Thing You’ve Always Been Looking For that you can fall totally in love with and it will never stop pleasing you. Excitement and optimism are palpable.

Adults, on the other hand, toss everything new into the Guaranteed Eventual Disappointment bin. “Everything so far has let me down. Nothing has fulfilled me in the way promised by marketing.”

What adults are missing is worse than excitement. They are missing excitement about the possibility of being excited again at all. Happiness from Havingness doesn’t seem plausible anymore.

Happiness is just shorthand for expectation of future fun, for what Schiller called play, for what marketers and self-help gurus call passion.

Passion is mere interest, uncensored

But what is passion? How about: passion is relaxed interest. Is this a helpful definition?

Passion is relaxed interest and it looks like this:

The goal of modern self-help and LGATs.
The goal of modern self-help and LGATs.

When a child has interest, it enters into the experience fully, with emotions and body. I’d like to suggest that this somatic entering into interest is, in fact, interest when it is not being suppressed.

When did we start hiding our emotions? The whole flow of joy is overflow—it goes out and infects others. You want the mood to spread. (Well, you used to. Today people smile at their cell phones in public in order to highlight the smaller smiles, no-smiles, or frowns of all the losers around them.) People hide their emotions because of an asshole parents, or other bully, who punished them once for showing offensive happiness. Nothing pissed my parents off more than seeing me bubbling with joy. Nothing exacerbates misery and sense of failure more than other people’s joy.

Still, until this sets in too deeply, the child will be out-of-her-skin with lusty eagerness for some object or event. Childhood imagination is insanely optimistic. This optimism has its climax in the moment of being sold something in an advertisement. (This hold also for a few adults.)

Passion peaks at the point of sale

Passion is the natural state of future orientation when objects are sold to a child. What we call interest is passion that has been cut-off from emotional expression. Only cerebral or intellectual joy is allowed—and even this gets restrictions.

Take good writing, for example. If you want to be published (or even understood) you have to write in a certain style, follow rules of expression, lay things out in a “normal” developmental pattern, and speak in a familiar tone. The chaotic fusion with the present is gone—as it should be, in order to cultivate a special kind of consciousness in the reader—namely, a vision of clearly defined objects, held side-by-side, in comparison.

Holding things up and comparing them is done by a consciousness that flits from object to object, all the while holding some identical scale in hand, without ever getting stuck on any particular object. To successfully compare two apples, you must bounce your attention between them while remaining outside them both. You can see that cognitive accuracy and passion are inversely correlated.

Long-term planning, which requires equanimity enabling comparison, is the other prong behind our habitual suppression of passion. Long-term planning is motivated by fear, and works best under cognitive aloofness.

What we call interest is actually detached interest, where the detachment is the result of a suppressive effort that has become automatic. “Interest” is what you feel when the object is contextualized inside all of the knowledge you have. This kills the object’s power to attract and seduce. (And note that fully contextualizing an object would result in a Buddhistic cognition of the object as being fully fabricated and not a proper object of craving at all. The mode of Buddhist therapy is passion extinction.)

What we call passion is interest for-itself, not tethered to some external task (such as counting).

“Interest” is suppressed interest. “Passion” is free interest—relaxed interest, where what relaxes is the censorship against feeling, enchantment, and possession provoked by past parental resentment and the demands of ratio-making cognition.

Real passion looks like this …

(Again, with English subtitles:)