Are You a Fanatic? When It’s Okay to Be Passionate

Updated July 23, 2020

An officiant once asked me, “How do you know what is right or wrong?”

Great question! To outrightly know if something is right or wrong is tricky because we do not have the authority to judge. Instead, there is much more discernment and nuance involved.

First, I ask myself: “what would the world look like if everyone did what I did?” Still, we may not get many answers because there are too many different situations in the world, and every person has a different role to play than the person next to him.

Secondly, I ask myself: “How would wild animals react to the situation?” You might say that if we acted like animals, the world would be very Darwinian. After all, is it right or wrong that an eagle captures a fish and eats it? At the very least, if we compare our actions to wild animals, we simplify matters for us humans.  Even then, this form of comparison with wild animals may not work as a way to guide human decision making.

So lastly, besides the use of scalable actions and wild animals as a comparison, instead of thinking of things as right or wrong, it is easier to gauge things as relatively positive or negative, which is the bulk of my essay below. To do so, we monitor the relativeness of the thoughts within ourselves, so we have a balance between the positive and the negative thoughts. Thus, if you have a leaning towards being critical, a strong leaning towards being positive is needed. Or it could be vice versa.

Because if we are 100 percent positive or 100 percent negative, according to our own definition of positive and negative, we create mental traps, and we become mired into only one way to think.

And if you have ever looked into your thought patterns, the average human mind is more akin to a “monkey mind,” a mind that quickly jumps from one often unrelated thought to another. So, for example, to be mired into one very positive way to think about something is not good.

You might be thinking about fanaticism, which is more undetectable than you think. As when we refer to “fanaticism,” why is it always referenced to something or someone “over there?” Why is fanaticism rarely referred to oneself?

When in point of fact, most of us can practice a form of fanaticism. Its positive term is called “passion,” but passion with a slight inversion, can quickly turn into fanaticism. Therefore, “passion” can become a “slippery slope towards ‘hell.’”  For example, look at any “successful” person who has a lot of passion. That same person can get embroiled into confrontation, arguments, strife, and, at its most extreme, pure chaos. So instead of fanaticism, we settle down and we monitor and control the fiery thoughts and actions.

One way to do that is on a mundane level. For example, on Facebook, to balance out the relative positive thoughts with the negative thoughts and feelings within myself, I make a point to post 80 percent positive things and 20 percent “negative” or critical things. Conversely, depending on the times, I post 20 percent positive things and 80 percent “negative” things.

This is because our “monkey” mind is naturally processing things, so to manage your positive and negative thoughts is crucial for mental and thus spiritual health. No decision in this world is 100 percent right or positive or 100 percent wrong or negative.

As we think to ourselves, “could I be wrong?” or “could my boss be wrong?” And the answers to those questions are usually a “yes.” Thus, there are situations where we might need to submit to another person’s instructions and errors entirely. Everything in the human physical world has a chance for error, and to follow any orders means that you will be swept up in some error or another.

The correct question then, is “how much error do you want to accept?” Sometimes, no matter how loyal you want to be to something, whether it’s your career values or your political, etiquette, cultural, or family values, those values are often continuously blaring at you in the face somehow go against your spiritual values. You will be reminded of those spiritual values as they keep on nudging at you when you go within. It shows up as a momentary wish, and finally, it never goes away permanently, because it is evidence of your soul’s desire.

For example, you think to yourself, “I wish I did this and that.”  And then you quickly forget or move on because too many other values are demanding your attention because you invested so much time and energy in those values that you think it’s impossible to change course. As a result, you feel conflicted, while nobody else knows the depth of your inner conflict, not even your significant other, maybe not even yourself, while you keep on leading the same outward life.

The only way to decipher the differences or the priority of the above values is to go within. Whether during a very hectic or very calm time of the day, we check in with ourselves. Through prayer and meditation, we navigate our way.

Related Links:
Breathing Exercises: Religion Not Needed
How to Start a Meditation Practice

Emy Louie is author of “Fast Trains: America’s High Speed Future,” and is the former Director of Public Outreach for the US High Speed Rail Association, which is based in Washington DC. Ms. Louie was born in Hong Kong and grew up in Hawaii and received a degree in Architecture from the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa. She once hosted “The Emy Louie Show” where she produced content and interviewed the movers and shakers of the Western Feng Shui and Green Building movement. She is currently working on conservation, environmental and design projects in Hawaii and Central America.


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