A Commonplace Book

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Well, there are psychologists who think that consciousness accompanies brain processes and is determined by them, but doesn't itself exert any influence on them. Something like the reflection of a tree in water; it couldn't exist without the tree, but it doesn't in any way affect the tree. I think it's all stuff and nonsense to say that there can be love without passion; when people say love can endure after passion is dead they're talking of something else, affection, kindliness, community of taste and interest, and habit. Especially habit. Two people can go on having sexual intercourse from habit in just the same way as they grow hungry at the hour they're accustomed to have their meals. Of course there can be desire without love. Desire isn't passion. Desire is the natural consequence of the sexual instinct and it isn't of any more importance than any other function of the human animal....

Unless love is passion, it's not love, but something else; and passion thrives not on satisfaction, but on impediment. What d'you suppose Keats meant when he told the lover on his Graciean urn not to grieve? "Forever wilt thou love, and she be fair!" Why? Because she was unattainable, and however madly the lover pursued she still eluded him. For they were both imprisoned in the marble of what I suspect was an indifferent work of art....

Passion doesn't count the cost. Pascal said that the heart has its reasons that reason takes no account of. If he meant what I think, he meant that when passion seizes the heart it invents reasons that seem not only plausible but conclusive to prove that the world is well lost for love. It convinces you that honour is well sacrificed and that shame is a cheap price to pay. Passion is destructive.

-- W. Somerset Maugham. The Razor's Edge (169-170)
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