We arrange our realities around our desires.
I scribbled it into my journal two years ago. I remember the thought occurred to me while at the grocery store, but by the time I revisited the note, I’d forgotten the specific situation that preceded it–this gave the sentence an aura of esoteric wisdom (I write this dryly). While I could not recall the logical steps I took to arrive at the note, I could recall being convinced of its truth. This was enough to lodge the conclusion stolidly into my brain.
I was in New York City waiting for the train to arrive. I was in high school with a lot of time, a lot of romanticism, and a lot of curiosity for others. I sneaked surreptitious glances at the man beside me. His features were snarled in a gloomy frown which he turned over his wrist watch. He snapped the clock’s face towards him again and again, resenting each long second as it passed.
I marveled over how similar yet how different our realities were in that moment. Two feet away, I stood in a pleasantly bustling subway station, enjoying my wait for the car to arrive–meanwhile, so near I could whisper to him, stood a man, enduring the obnoxiously crowded tunnel, miserable for the damned train to get here already.
“Wow,” I thought. “If he could only take two steps to the left, maybe he’d have a better five minutes.”
My baby son started out with the ability to lie on his back and cry. His desire to grasp certain objects led him to achieve the ability of reaching. His desire to explore and to more specifically hold a wooden spoon, a flashing toy, a naughty crumb of brownie (that had evaded our vacuum) led him to the skill of crawling.
My son developed mobility due to his desire for external object A (B or C) which has led to the desire for mobility which has fueled more desire for more objects (X, Y, and Z).
Thus, we develop because of our desire based on our desires.
4. Our Desires Bequeath Other Desires
- Via Contingency
Henry crawls towards the couch because he wants to touch its attractive wooden legs–meanwhile he glimpses a red pillow on the couch’s tall surface which leads him to the desire for hoisting himself up into the standing position.
- Via Expansion
As our capacity for pleasure grows so do our desires.
Freud’s pleasure principle states that people seek pleasure and avoid pain. I, however, view this binary pair pleasure/pain as not so easily separated and absolute.
Pleasure can build on itself indefinitely. Take Tiger Woods for example or your typical Vomitorium at an ancient party in Rome.
As we experience pleasure, our capacity for that pleasure grows, precipitating a desire for more and more of that pleasure.
- Via Refinement
Our desires begin so crudely. To possess, to control, to ingest, etc. Experience leads us to refine on our desires and language adds to their further fragmentation. For example, I’ll approach that topic that flashes in most heads when the word “desire” is uttered: sex.
On a very primitive level our matured bodies desire to reproduce.
Schopenhauer wrote (with great German pessimism) that our desire for love and to be loved is just our body (or Nature) manipulating our mind, manipulating our desire for its greater reproductive purpose.
“The only true purpose, the real purpose of every communion in love is the procreation, the birth of a child, although people who are in love are unable to conceive the nature’s treacherous way, casting over the actual act a shining veil,” writes Schopenhauer (who was never very lucky in love, as you can imagine, I’m sure)
Thus, our body’s desire for reproduction leads us to the desire for love and the beloved. Or, for the sake of simplicity, we could take a more modern and worldly approach and write that the body’s desire for reproduction leads to the desire for the other’s body which leads to the desire for sex which leads to more and more various sexual scenarios (i.e. sexual fantasies, partners, fetishes, etc.) and on and on we go into a splintering web of fine tuned desires that proceed ad infinitum and are at work in our advertisements, clothing lines, restaurants, well, in just about everything.
Unless a pushy outside influence has its way with us, our desires and our resulting reality are self-perpetuating phenomenons.
I desired to write (a lot and often) therefore I desired to be a writer therefore I desired to write . . .
I desire someone, therefore whatever that person does is desireable, thus this person is all the more desirable due to his or her desirable deeds. (This equation works in the opposite direction as well)
No wonder “controlling your desire” is such a hot topic in internet forums and self-help book shelves.
In a way, it would appear that by controlling our desires we control our reality (or at least lead it in certain, manageable directions)
It’s an obvious lesson to apply when it comes to arenas stamped with the bad rep as gluttonous like food desires, sex desires, power desires, etc.; but perhaps it is th arenas that are less obvious that play the larger roles in our reality constellations.
Desire for speed, convenience, flattery, control etc. can mutate perfectly fine experiences into negatively perceived nightmares.
Samuel Johnson: “Every man is rich or poor according to the proportion between desire and his enjoyments.”
Yes, but,——–Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. It’s desire that moves us from substrate on our backs to our feet walking forward.
Desire need not be (cannot be) eliminated or even minimized. Desire is best acknowledged and directed from there. Which is possibly more difficult, but as my old friend, Matt Banks once said to me, the best things usually are.