Fear and Passion

One of the most memorable moments in the film “Rikyu” by Hiroshi Teshigahara is when he is about to be executed. He runs into one of his disciples, and tells him about the tea room he started working on, and asks him to finish it. There is a similar moment in the biography of Steve Jobs; a few days before he died, he was still obsessed about the latest design of his iPhone.

If you were told that you are going to die in a few days, could you be thinking about your job? Wouldn’t you be grasping at straws to find some way of surviving? When I thought I was going to die from my liver dysfunction, I was so preoccupied with feeling scared that designing a website, for instance, was nowhere near my mind.

I think what happened to Rikyu and Jobs was that they had confronted and accepted death a long time ago, their pursuit of passion came afterwards. So, when they faced the certainty of their death, nothing changed. There were no surprises.

We all have burning passions within us. The only problem is that our fears grow so much stronger than our passions that the latter get buried. We may not even know what our passions are because they are completely buried. All of our fears are ultimately connected to our fear of death. Once we confront it and can accept it, our passions will naturally emerge, like in a swamp drained of its muddy water.