Appetites, passions, and emotions — society’s driving forces

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by Theresa Adebola-John

June 12, 2019 was marked as Democracy Day in Nigeria and President Buhari’s second term in office was set to take Nigeria on a path that will lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in ten years. Nothing is impossible in this life when people are capable of making it happen.

The civilization of a country generally reflects its social wellbeing or welfare, the qualities and characters of components of that society, and the vision of its leaders, past and present.

Defining aspects of characters of a society that reflect in its civilization are their appetites, passions, and emotions. Parents, teachers, and leaders are all in this together when it comes to vision leading to civilization.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines appetites as “any of the instinctive desires necessary to keep up organic life; especially: the desire to eat (“ In a broader philosophical sense, the appetites are tendencies towards or desires for objects of satisfaction, be it food, or housing, or health, or smart phone, or social media, or television, or money, or sex, or education, or qualifications, or drugs, or power, or wealth, or titles, or friends, or possessions, or entertainment, or travelling, or photography, or music, or religion, etc. These tendencies, desires, inclinations, or affinities may be primitive or may be refined by intellect and spirit during the maturing process of life. They may be diminished or quenched by weakness – as in old age, sickness, or slavery. Appetites sustain life and development because they enable us to seek the needs of life. For a society to benefit well from the principle of appetite, it should have an effective law or moral compass otherwise it will suffer the jungle effects of wayward appetite or concupiscence.

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The emotions and passions are strong feelings that compel action but that can be intellectually and spiritually regulated. The passions and emotions tend to emanate from opposite directions. The emotions are generally generated from experience of one’s environment. The passions are generally generated from one’s interior (soul, mind, heart, etc.). Simply put: your passions are you changing the world while your emotions are the world changing you. When you achieve something in the world, it is because you had some zeal within you for achieving it. When you get angry, it is because something in the world changed you.

Factors from within us such as zeal, vocation, drive, wisdom, virtue, talent, interest, conscience, curiosity, understanding, spiritual fire, etc. can drive us into action. Passionate people are so driven. They do not always need to be told what to do; they do not do things just for salary or pay; they do not necessarily calculate the cost, or anticipate the pain, or consider their vulnerability, or expect reward. They actually sacrifice to follow their passion. They feel and therefore they achieve. Societal underdevelopment is largely a result of lack of passion in individuals.

Factors in our environment (places, people, events, relationships, etc.) can raise up many different feelings within us such as fear, anger, hatred, jealousy, happiness, pleasure, erotic feelings, etc, and compel us to act accordingly. Emotional people are so driven. Their lives are easily shaped by their environment. Emotions can lead to actions which may be virtuous or vicious and law is necessary to limit jungle and promote civilization.

Both the passions and emotions are necessary for our well-being and fulfilment in life. Both are necessary and important in our lives as driving forces of actions, but we should develop a regulation of these feelings as we grow in life and learn the values of our actions and inactions. Achievers, change agents, great and effective leaders that produce a better society at all levels (family, school, institution, establishment, business, entrepreneurship, faith community, village, city, state, and country) are necessarily people of passions and emotions. They must be driven by refined passions and emotions.

Young people born into the tech age may be losing a lot of their greater selves if they are ruled by materialism and fail to develop their own spirituality. An average youth swamped by social media and entertainment is not healthy. Carried away by the emotions and sensationalism generated by social media, they may ignore their inner selves and fail to discover their passions. Powerful influences of pornography and social media gossip, for example, can deprive one of creativity, innovation, discovery, and development which are brought about by passion. The environment can present various distractions that prevent a person from rising. These distractions can lead to waste of time-of-youth, mental stagnation, and functional incapacity. Youths may need to learn to have a certain amount of detachment from the noise of the environment to be able to express their passions. Passion is necessary for one to become a functional, preserving, and constructive member of society. Social media is a powerful and important aspect of our lives that we should enjoy and take advantage of but we should not allow it to diminish our lives or take us off course. To be continued.

Dr. Theresa Adebola John is a lecturer at Lagos State University College of Medicine (LASUCOM) and an affiliated researcher at the College of Medicine, University of Tennessee, Memphis. For any comments or questions on this column, please email or call 08160944635

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