Sunday, April 20, 2008

Desire's end, part II

A couple of months ago, a grumpy old guy named Billy visited this blog and apropos of nothing except the blog's name left this comment:

Hey, there is no end to desire. We have been at that for billions of years.

The whole cosmos is nothing other than sexual energies, it's just in our human forms that it gets all messed up.

So maybe he didn't get the reference to the Charge of the Goddess, or maybe he didn't care, but the thing is, I agree with him. Desire seems to be a fundamental operating principle of the universe. As such, it seems perverse to wish for or anticipate its end.

Feri tradition tells a creation myth in which the Goddess gazes into a mirror and, falling in love with herself, gives birth to the universe. It seems to me at least a lovely metaphor, and I think more than that, to say that longing is what draws us into this world (the parents' desire for each other and for a child, the soul's desire to incarnate). Longing lures us through life, however messy and complicated, and it beckons to us from beyond the veil. How unfortunate it would be, then, to deny the power of this longing, to try to make ourselves, as if we could, beings without desire.

Yet we do just that. We deny ourselves all kinds of pleasure, including the pleasure of simply feeling our desires. Think about the fundamental things humans long for: food, water, shelter, touch, sex, companionship, beauty, comfort, meaning, creativity, expression, and connection to the world around us. Which of these isn't affected by practices of self-denial and wishing things were otherwise? How often do we fear that our wanting something will be too painful, that our desires will languish unfulfilled, and so we cut ourselves off from the wanting? What would it mean if instead we allowed ourselves fully to inhabit our desires, to know them intimately, to know ourselves intimately? Is it too much of a risk? What are we risking? And what do we lose if we don't taste the depths of those things we want?

I know my own litany of fear runs like this. I won't get what I want. I want too much, and that means there's something wrong with me. I don't deserve to want or receive things. I'll be judged. I'll be rejected. My needs can never be met. I'll have to give too much of myself away. It will be too painful. I don't want to be needy. I don't want to risk being disappointed. If I "give in" to my desires, they'll overwhelm me, or someone else. I'm powerless in the face of them. I'll hurt someone. I'll be consumed by them. I'll lose control. I'll feel empty, isolated, alone.

In a puritanical culture, whence come many of these fears, desire is something to be kept under tight control if not altogether annihilated. It's an unseemly artifact of our animal natures. We identify desire with women, in whom it's deemed uncontrollable. Like the feminine, it needs to be mastered. Desire leaves us vulnerable and exposed. We feel its tremors, and we turn away.

What would it be like if instead of trying to master, ignore, or squelch desire, we rode its currents instead? What if we became intimate with not just the contents or objects of our desires, but with the very shape, texture, and taste of desire itself? What if we allowed ourselves to dive deep into the wanting? What if we sat with desire and allowed it to unfold within us, to reveal its layers and secrets, to discover what's underneath the ripples of surface longing?

What if we were honest with each other about our desires? What if, instead of furtively confessing, we boldly stated, explored, investigated, and celebrated them? What if we stopped being coy and embarrassed? What would it mean to take responsibility for desire in the full context of that desire? To work skillfully with it? What if we acknowledged and accepted that we're desirous beings and got to know ourselves as such?


Scrivener said...

Within a couple hours of each other, you posted this and I put up that quote from Housekeeping which includes the lines, "And here again is a foreshadowing—the world will be made whole. For to wish for a hand on one's hair is all but to feel it. So whatever we may lose, very craving gives it back to us again. Though we dream and hardly know it, longing, like an angel, fosters us, smooths our hair, and brings us wild strawberries." Wow.

One thing that I'm thinking about, beyond the clear similarities, is that Robinson comes to this position as a Calvinist. I'd like to be there to take part in a conversation between the two of you.

Inanna said...

I think I'll just steal the whole quotation from your site and put it up over here. Same wavelength much?

I'm tempted to say something facile, like that Robinson's Calvinism (I didn't know that) means she focused on the lack rather than the fulfillment, but I really do think that's too simple.

Vivian said...

Yeah! I was just talking about this with a dear friend today, how wonderful to find your post. I think that you state beautifully the barriers to embracing our desire. I'm often listening to that inner critic that keeps me from asking the questions: what do I desire? Thank you for questions at the end of this post, I think I will go and ponder my answers.

...I would like to beg you dear Sir, as well as I can, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a foreign language.

Don't search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now.

Perhaps then, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.

Rainer Maria Rilke, 1903 in Letters to a Young Poet

Grian/Lee said...

I seem to be unable to put my thoughts into proper order at this moment, but I wanted to tell you that this post struck something in me. I will be thinking on it for a while and hopefully will be able to comment intelligently soon. Thanks for the food for thought.

Dawtch said...

What an awesome blog! And you write beautifully. I wih I could do half as well...I have the words, and the desire, but I can't bring the two together in any meaningful way...Thank you for sharing you words.
BTW I found you at Hearth & Home.

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