Wednesday, January 04, 2017

I Don't Know What I Want, But I Want it Now

Very little time this morning...

Continuing with yesterday's theme, or themes rather: why the Incarnation, and what do you want? If Bailie is correct, the questions are linked, in that we want the Incarnation and all it implies.

"We spend much or all of our lives wanting, punctuated only momentarily by fleeting moments of satisfaction, rarely pondering the implications of this gigantic fact of our existence or realizing that it is what defines our species" (Bailie).

Actually, I do ponder the implications of this gigantic fact, and have done so for most of my conscious life. Not that I ever fully resolved the question, but I did notice -- certainly by adolescence -- that fulfillment of a desire didn't fill one very full, or at least for very long. Rather, it was like trying to fill a hole on the beach with water.

At the same time, I also noticed that fleeting satisfactions are all we are given in this life; and that satisfaction is satisfaction is satisfaction. You could be hugely ambitious in the hope that the fulfilled ambition would lead to some permanent satisfaction, but it doesn't work that way. I never imagined that, say, if I became a doctor or lawyer or Indian chief or whatever, that it would resolve anything fundamental.

At any rate, that was my rationale for being utterly devoid of ambition. And for awhile it was my rationale for a headlong hedonism that lasted from, oh, about 17 and a-half to 25. After that I distinctly remember the Light coming on and becoming increasingly more luminous, or at least illuminating more area.

Oh, and one more important thing I noticed was that there was no necessary relationship between desire and fulfillment. Maybe because I was given to moodiness, but I couldn't help noticing that I was often in an elevated and expansive mood for no reason at all; and that I could feel down when everything was going well. This gave me the idea that it was all up to me -- that fulfillment was some sort of interior process or state, independent of exterior circumstances.

All of these factors naturally pushed me toward eastern religions, Buddhism in particular. When the Buddha said that desire is the source of human suffering, that sounded good to me. The trouble was, my desire had merely been displaced to a deeper level: a desire to feel good all the time!

It was a classic catch 22: "desire is the source of suffering, and I desire an absence of suffering." D'oh!

Anyway, "Other creatures don't want as humans do." They want, but they don't let things get out of hand and begin desiring. Simple body-bound appetites have an appropriate object.

But again, Desire is infinite. Indeed, if you can't get someone to go along with the Absolute, you can certainly acquaint them with its first fruit, the Infinite. In truth you cannot be human and be unaware of either, but the Absolute often takes an implicit form while the Infinite is obviously very experience-near: we don't ask for much, only everything.

A human being who doesn't want is hardly worth the name. One of the most painful aspects of clinical depression is anhedonia, or the inability to experience pleasure.

Without even being consciously aware of it, "pleasure" in one form or another is our guidance system through life. It works automatically, making all sorts of micro decisions and steering us this way or that. Remove it and man is paralyzed. A deeply depressed person can do this or that, but neither one matters. Life becomes drained of all meaning.

So, desire is obviously important. It is analogous to our ability to experience pain. No one likes it, but imagine how quickly life would be over if we couldn't sense it. Pain has its place, as does desire.

But desire is not physical; it is quite literally meta-physical, in that nothing merely physical can satisfy it. We all have our animal pleasures. But "Desires, more than pleasures, define and sum up your personal identity." You know the crack: Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

Back in my hedonic days, the Raspberries were one of my favorite groups. They were never very popular, because they specialized in three minute power pop gems when the times called for bloated, meandering, and self-indulgent twenty minute jams with inscrutable lyrics. They had a reunion about ten years ago. Here they are, expressing an unseemly sentiment for grown men, but one that once made sense to me: I don't know what I want, but I want it NOW!


julie said...

Here they are, expressing an unseemly sentiment for grown men...

And yet in this day and age (or maybe it was ever thus and we just don't know because we weren't there), that insatiable craving for I-don't-know-what-but-want-it-now almost seems the standard state of being for most adults. Certainly for the younger, but for older, too.

mushroom said...

We know there is more because we want it. Makes sense to me.

Infinited desire implies infinite fulfillment, just have to look in the right place.

mushroom said...

I meant "infinite" not "infinited", but I kind of like it.

Leslie said...

“In speaking of this desire for our own far off country, which we find in ourselves even now, I feel a certain shyness. I am almost committing an indecency. I am trying to rip open the inconsolable secret in each one of you—the secret which hurts so much that you take your revenge on it by calling it names like Nostalgia and Romanticism and Adolescence; the secret also which pierces with such sweetness that when, in very intimate conversation, the mention of it becomes imminent, we grow awkward and affect to laugh at ourselves; the secret we cannot hide and cannot tell, though we desire to do both. We cannot tell it because it is a desire for something that has never actually appeared in our experience. We cannot hide it because our experience is constantly suggesting it, and we betray ourselves like lovers at the mention of a name.

Our commonest expedient is to call it beauty and behave as if that had settled the matter. Wordsworth’s expedient was to identify it with certain moments in his own past. But all this is a cheat. If Wordsworth had gone back to those moments in the past, he would not have found the thing itself, but only the reminder of it; what he remembered would turn out to be itself a remembering. The books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was longing. These things—the beauty, the memory of our own past—are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshipers. For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited.”
― C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory