Xeno Hemlock


Why You Should Be a Passionate and Principled Person

(Tales of the Universe's Weird & Wicked Sense of Humor #2)


It was a pleasure to burn.

No, I didn't mean to plagiarize Mr. Ray Bradbury. His opening sentence in his acclaimed novel Fahrenheit 451 described perfectly how I felt (and still feel). It is, indeed, a pleasure to burn.

When I was a teenager I was insecure (weren't we all?) and I hated those who appeared the opposite (didn't we all?). Unfortunately, I didn't stave off the insecurity as much as I wanted to in my early adulthood. I kept hating, in secret, those who brimmed with fire. 

I hated passionate and principled people and it irked me, because deep inside I wanted to be like them.

(Also see: I Killed My Friends and It Thrilled Me)

We have everything we need to be happy, but we aren’t happy. Something’s missing.
— Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury

Here's a truth everyone needs to know: Passionate and principled people shape society and its future. 

Think of Rosa Parks in 1955 Alabama. She refused to give up her seat in the bus to a white passenger. Her defiant and courageous act (principled) became an important symbol of the modern Civil Rights Movement. Though the world isn't perfect yet, look at how far we've come.


Think of the Rogue One crew in the latest Star Wars film. Despite the Rebel Alliance dismantling after the Death Star destroyed Jedha's capital, they still went on their mission to retrieve the schematics containing the Death Star's vulnerability from the Imperial. In the last few minutes of the film, my heart got squeezed as I helplessly watched Jyn and Cassian, the last two surviving members of the crew, face the "sunset" of death. They retrieved the schematics which made its way to the reformed Rebels. But they paid a high price - their lives. The passionate and principled Rogue One crew became unsung heroes whose contribution to the war couldn't and shouldn't be trivialized.

Think of Galileo who defied the then popular idea that the sun revolved around the Earth.

Think of Winston Churchill and his unwavering desire to serve his country during the Second World War.

Think of Katniss who refused to kill Peeta when only one of them should survive per the rules of the Hunger Games. 

Often, important landmarks, transformations, and milestones in history occur because of people who relentlessly pursue their passion and refuse to compromise their principles; like stars that keep on burning and the sun that doesn't tire from shining.

And if I were you, I'd choose to burn. Here are three reasons why you should become a passionate and principled person:


You Got to Have Something to Live For


And by that, I mean find that thing you can torch with passion and purpose. Then keep the flames going.

It's what I've been doing for three years. Yes, it's fun. Yes, there were challenges along the way, some easy and some difficult. But there's one thing I can never deny. Pursuing my writing career has made me feel so alive. Gone are the days I'd wake up in the morning and wish I was living a different life. Now I see life for what it truly is - a mountain we all ought to be climbing. I'm not at the summit of my life yet but I have achieved a big milestone with the upcoming March release of my novel. From there, the only way to go next is up.

In Fahrenheit 451, the people of the city only cared about the entertainment fed to them by their government. When Guy Montag met Clarisse McClellan, he was shocked with how alive the girl was. She looked him in the eyes as they conversed. She talked about flowers, rain, and leaves, and not about the shows on TV like his wife Mildred. Here's how he described Clarisse in his mind after meeting her for the first time:

For how many people did you know that refracted your own light to you? People were more often—-he searched for a simile, found one in his work—-torches, blazing away until they whiffed out. How rarely did other people’s faces take of you and throw back to you your own expression, your own innermost trembling thought?
— Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury


If You Don't Stand For Something, You Will Fall For Nothing

We need not to be let alone. We need to be really bothered once in a while. How long is it since you were really bothered? About something important, about something real?
— Faber, Fahrenheit 451

In the early seasons of Survivor, one of the only few TV shows I still watch, putting yourself in the swing vote spot gave you power in the game. Your vote was the only one that really mattered. The two people whose names would appear in the ballots better grovel to your feet to save their hide. It became a coveted spot in the politics of the show until the game evolved. The players wised up and turned the tables on the swing votes who discovered their being wishy-washy was what led to their downfall.

Outside reality shows, it's the same. We admire the people who speak strongly about the same things we hold dear. We loathe those who mouth fiercely about the things we despise. People with convictions we view as strong, even if their beliefs are sometimes opposite of ours. A person only considers someone an enemy if he is threatening and isn't weak. And for those who chose nothing, we feel nothing. We don't remember them, their faces lost in a sea of blur.

At the ending of Fahrenheit 451 the city was bombed, turning to ash the apathetic civilization that refused to think for themselves. Here's one of my favorite quotes from the book, a statement from Faber, a former English professor.

The comfortable people want only wax moon faces, poreless, hairless, expressionless. We are living in a time when flowers are trying to live on flowers, instead of growing on good rain and black loam. Even fireworks, for all their prettiness, come from the chemistry of the earth.
— Faber, Fahrenheit 451


Passion and Principle Beget Passion and Principle


Loathing is admiration wrapped in ugly coating, at least in this specific tale. When I was a young lad, passionate and principled people (especially those whose beliefs were opposite of mine) bothered me. How dare they not feel ashamed of speaking their minds? How dare they not dim themselves in order to please others? How dare they remain true to themselves not minding what others might say?

But I admired them. Really. They burned so hot with red fire that seared my skin. All I could do back then was to look with awe and jealousy while my flesh was burning. It takes courage to be a person of passion and principles. And in today's world where people are quick to shut bright people like them, that courage becomes the size of the planet. 

But you can’t make people listen. They have to come round in their own time, wondering what happened and why the world blew up under them. It can’t last.
— Granger, Fahrenheit 451

In Fahrenheit 451, Montag searched for a professor he met years ago, Faber, to ask for his help with his newfound inner battle between saving or burning (his job) the books. Faber, who felt powerless and had already surrendered to the injustice against books, was apprehensive. But Montag pressed the former professor into helping him. Guess what? Faber agreed. Despite their short-lived relationship in the novel, it was their working together that led to Montag learning that fire wasn't only made for destruction.

Sometimes people are already filled with fire inside and are only waiting for a little prodding, a leader or a fellow for them to follow. Passion and principle beget passion and principle. Revolutions are won one person at a time. 

When somebody pays me a compliment (e.g., I inspire them), not only does it warm my heart. It also fuels me. Those nights, of thinking the results and rewards weren't quick to come and perhaps I ought to give up, give me a little shame. How dare do I even consider putting out my flame? I got to keep it burning.

I feel alive for the first time in years. I feel I’m doing what I should’ve done a lifetime ago. For a little while I’m not afraid. Maybe it’s because I’m doing the right thing at last. Maybe it’s because I’ve done a rash thing and don’t want to look the coward to you. I suppose I’ll have to do even more violent things, exposing myself so I won’t fall down on the job and turn scared again. What are your plans?
— Faber, Fahrenheit 451

Passionate and principled people are diamonds. In today's landscape of conformity, when you find someone like that, either you keep them or you learn from them. If you aren't burning yet, you should. It's a total pleasure.