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24 January 2011 / erikduval

Three passions

Bertrand Russell has always been a bit of a hero of mine… I think I could have made a worse choice…

From his auto-biography:

Three passions, simple but overwhelmingly strong, have governed my life: the longing for love, the search for knowledge, and unbearable pity for the suffering of mankind. These passions, like great winds, have blown me hither and thither, in a wayward course, over a great ocean of anguish, reaching to the very verge of despair.I have sought love, first, because it brings ecstasy – ecstasy so great that I would often have sacrificed all the rest of life for a few hours of this joy. I have sought it, next, because it relieves loneliness–that terrible loneliness in which one shivering consciousness looks over the rim of the world into the cold unfathomable lifeless abyss. I have sought it finally, because in the union of love I have seen, in a mystic miniature, the prefiguring vision of the heaven that saints and poets have imagined. This is what I sought, and though it might seem too good for human life, this is what–at last–I have found.

With equal passion I have sought knowledge. I have wished to understand the hearts of men. I have wished to know why the stars shine. And I have tried to apprehend the Pythagorean power by which number holds sway above the flux. A little of this, but not much, I have achieved.

Love and knowledge, so far as they were possible, led upward toward the heavens. But always pity brought me back to earth. Echoes of cries of pain reverberate in my heart. Children in famine, victims tortured by oppressors, helpless old people a burden to their sons, and the whole world of loneliness, poverty, and pain make a mockery of what human life should be. I long to alleviate this evil, but I cannot, and I too suffer.

This has been my life. I have found it worth living, and would gladly live it again if the chance were offered me.

Food for thought… What are your passions?

2 Comments

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  1. Martyn Cooper / Jan 24 2011 1:03 am

    Beyond knowledge I would hold up wisdom as a high virtue – that quality of applying knowledge for the greater good within matters intimate and individual or global.

    The ability to stand in awe and wonder at beauty wherever you find it is also a true blessing in life.

    However with so many I would agree “the greatest of these is love”!

  2. erikduval / Jan 24 2011 11:06 am

    “stand in awe and wonder at beauty”: very much so… Thx, Martyn!

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