The source of the phrase "ruling passion" may be attributed to Alexander Pope. To those of literary bent, what comes to mind is the quote, "The ruling passion conquers reason still" from the 18th-century poet's Moral Essays, Epistle III: To Allen Bathurst (1733). In this context, this line may be interpreted as the clash between two opposing forces. Strong emotions win over sober logic in the battle between heart and mind.
Encountering the phrase "ruling passion" recalls synonymous expressions such as "all-consuming desire," "burning ambition" or "missionary zeal." We may also associate the phrase with similar terms such as "single-mindedness," "tunnel vision," "singular focus" or "one-track mind." The concept may also describe an extreme behavior related to an obsession, compulsion or even addiction. Depending on the object of the desire, one's ruling passion fully engages a person's mental, physical, emotional, psychological or spiritual faculties.
Online dictionaries define ruling passion as "an interest or concern that occupies a large part of someone's time and effort." In other words, it's a preoccupation or fascination directed towards a purpose or an object. In some cases, the compelling interior force driving some individuals may be the thrill of the chase. They score a natural high from the adrenaline rush of the pursuit itself, not necessarily the end goal.
Dreams and Ambitions
"Ruling passion" may also signify our life's longing to achieve our greatest aspirations.
Those who wish to rise to the top may nurture a secret yearning to accomplish a sublime mission or be a famous personality. For the majority of us struggling mortals, to do something or to be someone may simply mean going through the process of authentic self-realization. It entails discovering our talents and developing our potential to evolve into what we envision to be our truest selves.
Self-help gurus often repeat mantras in various permutations that essentially boil down to "pursue your passion." This formula for success in life may be trite, but its kernel of truth remains unchanged. We derive the highest degree of self-fulfillment in following our natural inclinations and honing innate core gifts. We come to discern whether our aptitudes and interests lie in the realms of the intellectual, artistic, athletic, business, scientific, spiritual or other human endeavors. Our entire being becomes engrossed in nurturing personal passions. We employ all the resources at our disposal in these undertakings. The combination of talent and perseverance increases the likelihood of attracting the right connections and making things happen. In turn, this yields a higher probability of attaining success.
- The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable: Ruling Passion; Elizabeth Knowles; 2006
- University of Virginia Scholars' Lab: The Mind is a Metaphor; Brad Pasanek; 2004
- Google English Dictionary: Ruling Passion; 2009
- Roget's 21st Century Thesaurus, Third Edition: Ruling Passion; Philip Lief Group; 2011
- Dictionary.com LLC: Ruling Passion; 2011
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