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The second day, in which the masters discuss passion
You have been quiet today.

Have I? Sorry.

I don’t mind. It’s just unlike you.

I suppose. I’m just thinking, that’s all.

What about?

Nothing. A dream I had last night, nothing really.

Tell me about it.

So now you’re Joseph? Or Freud maybe?

Neither. Just tell me.

Well, I’ve had it a few times before. I was just completely at peace, calm. Still.

Bliss, surely.

No, no it wasn’t. It was terrifying. Except at the time I couldn’t even feel terror. I couldn’t feel anything. I was just numb. I only felt the terror when I woke up.

What did you see in the dream? Or was it just blackness?

No, it wasn’t blackness. I could see things, I mean really awful things, but I just didn’t seem to care, I didn’t feel anything about them. I saw people being beaten up, kicked in the head, blood everywhere, you know. And I just didn’t care. I just felt still and calm. There was fire. And people burning in the fire, and they were screaming, really horrible screams like you wouldn’t believe. And people outside watching and crying and screaming as well because people were in there dying. And I wasn’t that far from the fire myself, and it was spreading, but I was calm, no fear, nothing.

You were at peace.

Peace, numbness, whatever it was. When I woke up, I felt this nausea, like I wanted to throw up. I’d been completely surrounded by suffering, and I felt nothing.

But you were at peace.

What kind of peace is that. It was peace through isolation, through putting yourself behind glass and cutting yourself off from everything.


But I don’t want to cut myself off from everything. I don’t want to be isolated.

You sound like a child crying because his mother has left him alone.

You mock, but yes, that is how I feel. I feel like I’ve been left alone, and I’m reaching out to touch anything, anything at all. And that straining to reach is what I feel all my life.

You’d think you’d want a rest from all this straining.

Sure, sometimes I do rest for a while. But then all that happens is that it builds up in me again and again, this enormous desire not to be alone anymore. To live in the world is to be marked by the world. Love, hate, whatever you call it, I want to bear those marks. I want to be affected by things. I want to affect things. Not just hit against this wall of uncaring, but actually make people feel desire, or get angry, or laugh, or hate, or something. And I want them to make me laugh or get me angry or whatever too. Do you understand? I don’t want to just drift by things like they’re not even there. I want to feel them, and if that means being hurt by them, I don’t care, because it’s better than this sense of being alone.

You long not to be separated. I can understand that. There is a gap between you and everything else. You yearn to close that gap. That yearning is passion.

You talk about this yearning as if it’s so familiar to you. But you sit there in the lotus position.

Try it.

And risk numbing myself with peace? No thanks.

You long not to be separated, and yet you talk and you talk. Sit, listen.
– Richard Francis Irvine