Peace. I will stop your mouth! – Shakespeare, Much Ado About Nothing
The couple on the television show are fighting. It’s a real-deal, humdinger argument. There have been dirty looks all day and the tension is now bubbling at their lids. We get lots of uncharacteristic yelling as the former lovers throw subtext-laden accusations back and forth, the heat rises, they move closer – is that genuine fury in her eyes as she fully unleashes? Then suddenly it changes, there is a beat, the tiniest axis shift, and she’s in his arms. They are kissing and her hand is on his neck as she makes the soft, telling sound of acquiescence. Audiences all over sigh, and cheer loudly. Or want to throw their dinner at the screen.
This recent polarising scene from my favourite television show The Good Wife is a grand example of passion. It is in fact the bang-on definition of the word – this representation of suffering, of surrender. The word passion can be traced back to the Latin verb pati which literally means to suffer. It also has a relationship to submission, to allow and to permit. This then is passion as our stories have always told us. The immense emotion and the giving over to it. The idea that there is something epic, an uncontrolled and driving force at play, when certain people come together.
I write a lot about passion here at body, remember. I privilege passion in fact (I was definitely one of the viewers cheering!) and would even go as far as to say that passion is my default experience, heightened as my desires always seem to be. I can love something to distraction, I can suffer with the best of them, and yes I can surrender beautifully. Ridiculously. Palms open, heart pulsing on my shirt-sleeve ridiculously. As any reader of this blog will likely have figured out already, I am not one to love anything in a mannered way.
“Half – the most beautiful half – of life is hidden from him who has not loved passionately.” – Stendhal
In the context of relationships, I don’t mean to say passion has come easily or frequently throughout these rotations around the sun. Thus far, I have had two grand passions in my life. One bright and blinding like the sun itself, and the other more like a moon-rise – years of a cloudy night sky with sudden moments of illumination, and yes the guiding light for this blog, and my book. Two grand passions. Neither of which I escaped from unscathed. Suffering and surrender? You betcha! Like I said, I can suffer with the best of them. And the truth is, I wouldn’t change a thing.
I cheered for our Good Wife Alicia, and her wounded lover Will because I think that you are never more fully alive, never more connected than when you follow your heart. It can sound trite, an over-used term like this. But I believe the heart belongs to you. Reason is given to you, it’s piled on with the teachings of your family, your culture, your faith. Reason is the check and balance of a society that has a vested interest in your model citizenry. The heart is something else altogether. It would sooner put you at the centre.
“I want to live my life so that my nights are not full of regrets.” – DH Lawrence
But as I said in an earlier piece here, the sincerity of the body has been much maligned by the idea that words are more honest than a beating heart. We have all talked ourselves into and out of things because the decision seems right as opposed to feels right. By feel, I mean that alive, connected sensation which signals our arrival at something, the beginning of more. And that’s not exactly something women are encouraged to pursue, this idea of more. Not when we’re bombarded with messages that suggest we’re too picky in love, that too many options will make us miserable. Not when the greatest role we are supposed to play is that of the good, satisfied wife.
Indeed on The Good Wife, the backlash against the lead character pursuing her own passions with Will after her husband cheated on her (with both a prostitute and her best friend – stellar guy) has been a strong reminder of how a woman driven by passion can be seen as dangerous, as morally bankrupt. The people wanting to throw their dinner at the screen over the passionate kiss mentioned above can see how such an action could bring about the unravelling of Alicia Florrick. Those of us cheering can of course see this too. The difference is we celebrate it. We want more for our girl.
“Risk! Risk anything! Care no more for the opinions of others, for those voices. Do the hardest thing on earth for you. Act for yourself. Face the truth.” – Katherine Mansfield
Those two grand passions of mine changed me. I stopped skimming the surface, I locked in on this life of mine and became honest. I came to understand that I’m not always nice and I’m not always prepared to put my needs last. I also came to understand that in the pursuit of connecting to others, and to myself, I am prepared to take great risks. Neither relationship ended particularly well, but that’s not the point. Their influence flows through my life and threads through my stories like an ink vein to my writer’s heart, and I am a better person (and writer!) for it.
Here’s hoping The Good Wife writers (and viewers) allow Alicia to discover the influence and impact of grand passion for herself.
“Only connect! That was the whole of her sermon. Only connect the prose and the passion, and both will be exalted, and human love will be seen at its height. Live in fragments no longer.” – E.M. Forster, Howards End