Pinch of Salt Graphic (English)

Passion is an interesting word.

It can mean many things. Or rather, we can be passionate about many things.

There's the romantic passion most people feel at one time or another in their lives. It can be the fuel to keep a relationship alive. It can also be the "forbidden" passion that's the subject of so many great pieces of literature and art — or the condemning words from too many pulpits and social critics.

More generally, there's passion for a cause. That's generic, to be sure, but it's also what makes life interesting and/or worthwhile.

We talk a lot about being passionate about helping people, or protecting nature, or fighting racism. I'd like to think I'm passionate about making my community a better place to live.

Still, it's no secret the passion we've seen recently at the nation's capitol was not only excessive, but destructive. It is far from the first example of passion becoming dangerous and counter-productive.

Is there, can there be, such a thing as controlled passion? It sounds like a bit of an oxymoron, doesn't it?

There are several examples of passion for a cause in this week's letters to the editor. Sometimes labeled as naysayers, these folks are clearly passionate about their beliefs. They can be counted on to make their case to leave things alone pretty much any time a development is proposed.

I can, and often do, disagree with their stance, but I believe their passion is authentic, and I try to respect that. They deserve their say, and the Grunion, specifically the Our Mailbox feature, has tried to be a platform for their comments. And I believe the Grunion is the only outlet in Long Beach that can make that claim.

But I digress. I want to explore what it takes to make passion work for us, not against us. I want to harness, to control, the passion so it provides the energy and urgency to get things done.

Rather than trying to tamp down passion — something that rarely succeeds — I'm going to argue for adding two other components.

First, let's add a dollop of rational thought. Passion without some thinking behind it is only wishful dreaming.

Second, and this one is tougher, let's require an honest hearing of the other side, or sides. By honest, I mean being at least slightly willing to accept that opinions other than our own might have some validity.

I am well aware that I'm asking people to walk a tightrope. I've fallen off that tightrope a number of times myself, and likely do so again.

But knowing it's there is a way to try to make our passions work together. What do you say? Want to meet in the middle of the tightrope?

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Harry has been executive editor of Gazette Newspapers for more than 26 years. He has been in the newspaper business for more than 35 years, with experience on both weekly and metropolitan daily papers in Colorado and California.

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