The Power of Passion

Desire, fear, joy, grief, love, hate, pride, shame. We all have passions, and we recognize passions in others. But do we really understand what passions are and what they signify? It is remarkable how often we are wrong about our own passions and misread the passions of others. We also deceive ourselves about their meaning. The more we puzzle over the nature of passions, the deeper the mystery becomes. It is a mystery that is by no means solved, but one that repays careful exploration.

Far from being routine, passions are “the key to the meaning of life,” says founder of Passion Never Retires and distinguished storyteller Peter de Kuster, who in this seminar takes you on a tour of his more than three-decade-long intellectual struggle to reach an understanding of these complex phenomena. Some of his conclusions are surprising and very much against the current of common sense.

Peter’s lectures unfold as a rich dialogue with storytellers, writers, artists and philosophers, including Proust, Michelangelo, Hemingway, Isabel Allende, Plato, Aristotle, Jung, Descartes, Adam Smith, Nietzsche, William James, Freud and Sartre, Homer, Shakespeare, Melville, Dostoevsky, and Picasso.

Passions Have Intelligence

By probing the ideas of these and other thinkers and presenting his own views, Peter will lead you to a remarkable conclusion: Passions have intelligence and provide personal strategies that are vitally important to our everyday lives of perceiving, evaluating, appraising, understanding, and acting in the world.

This idea runs counter to the widespread view that draws a sharp distinction between the emotional and the rational and views passions as inferior, disruptive, primitive, and even bestial forces. For Peter, many passions are distinctively human and they are far more complicated than mere “feelings.” They are rational judgments—sophisticated strategies for survival.

In exploring the multifaceted nature of passions you will address questions such as:

  • How do we distinguish passions from feelings, such as heartache?
  • What is the meaning of our passions, and how do they serve to enrich and guide our lives?
  • Is there a determinable number of basic passions that serve as building blocks for the range of passions we experience?
  • Is a passion such as jealousy a genetic trait shared by all humans—or is it something learned?
  • Are passions subconscious products of the mind, or are they under conscious control?

Storyteller at Work

One of the fascinating features of this course is that you get to witness a storyteller wrestling with the ideas of his predecessors—accepting, rejecting, refining their contributions, and modifying some of his own earlier views—in a demonstration of the intellectual honesty required to make progress in tackling a profound challenge. He also ranges beyond storytelling to draw insights from art, philosophy, psychology, sociology, neurology, history, and literature.

A world renowned storyteller Peter has written more than 45 books, including The Heroine’s Journey,  The Hero’s Journey,  Passion Never Retires as well as works on business and personal storytelling

In a review of Not Passion’s Slave, he was singled out for being “at the heart of a revival

Wondrous Rule Breakers

“I want to invite you to look at your own emotions as if they are something wondrous, mysterious, and exotic, something you’ve always taken for granted—even when they’ve gotten you in trouble,” says Peter at the outset of this course, which he divides into three sections:

  • Desires, Love, and Violence: The Drama of the Passions. The seminar begins with exploring twelve specific passions (anger, fear, love, compassion, pride, envy, vengeance, and grief) with insights into the complexity, importance, and roles passions play in our lives.
  • Out of Touch with Our Feelings: Misunderstanding the Passions. This part we examine how we misinterpret and fail to take responsibility for our passions. For example, the innocent-sounding claim that passions are feelings represents a fundamental misunderstanding of what passions are about. Other misconceptions are the seemingly innocent assertion that passions are “in the mind” and the idea that we are the victims or slaves of our passions.
  • How Our Passions Enrich Our Lives. The concluding part we take a positive look at the richness and value of our passions, probing what it is about them that make life worth living. Peter talks about the roles that passions play in different areas of our life.

Throughout the seminar, Peter returns again and again to his thesis that passions have intelligence, an idea that has roots in Western philosophy tracing back to Aristotle. The notion of “emotional intelligence” gained notoriety through a 1990s bestseller by psychologist Daniel Goleman, but while Goleman and other popular writers on the subject primarily discuss learning how to control emotions, Peter digs deeper to reach the core of how passions themselves contain intelligence—indeed many kinds of intelligence—and to explore the complex emotional repertoire that makes us uniquely human.

As you prepare for this seminar: Think about your own passions; think about what you observe in others; think about the enormous body of research and conjecture on this fascinating topic as Peter takes you on a challenging and stimulating journey.

“Passions are our doing,” he says. “A passion is not just a product of evolution, but a product of cultivation and, sometimes, personal choice. If you look at your passions and say, ‘I will take responsibility for this because it is my doing,’ sometimes you will be wrong; but in general, you will suddenly find that you’ve taken ownership of your life in a way that you hadn’t before. And it seems to me that is a very important lesson.”