Everyone desires something more than what they have.
It is how we handle that desire that does so very much to define the shape of our lives.
When they take children who have little out Christmas shopping, they often have to strongly remind them to choose something for themselves. These kids desire most to give something to the people that they love and love them, looking for treasures to give to family. They desire less for themselves and more for others.
Something happens to us once we hit puberty, though. Desire changes shape. It what we desire most shifts. Maybe the thing we want most is to be desirable, to be acknowledged, embraced, wanted.
That desire to be desired is so strong that we don’t just want it, we need it. It seems to us like the entire weight of our happiness is on that one precarious need, to be desired so much that someone wants to give us what we desire.
This urgency of desire becomes the drive that shapes our life. It becomes easy to believe that if we get just one more thing, one more object or affirmation to fill the need inside us that our life will finally come together and we will be happy.
It never works that way, but as long as we can be kept believing that happiness is just one more purchase, one more conquest away, we keep scraping up the dosh to grab the next ring. Marketers love this drive and so do the people who run big institutions, because as long as we are focused on that next golden prize, we will work to comply with the rules they put in place. Humans used to live in a culture where the thrill of the erotic enervated us and eased the process of building solid pair-bond relationships with a long-term partner, but we have now chosen to chase that thrill for the thrill itself.
To break free of this cycle and follow our heart, we have to break free of the system of desire. We have to consider what we really need and the price we pay for wanting the next thrill, the next puff, the next hit. We need, as Clarissa Pinkola Estés reminds us, to return to the handmade life.
To leave the system of desire is to leave the easy and the conventional behind. It requires us to stop chasing for the quick and empty high that “everyone” wants and instead, focus on what we value.
To leave the system of desire is to step away from what others have learned to take for granted. We know that when we don’t share desire with other people, we also don’t share a kind of peer connection with them, one based on shared desire. It becomes hard for us to join in gushing over the next hot person, hard for us to enter the competition to show status, hard for us to stay a part of the group.
To stay in that system, though, to not do the hard, hard work of understanding and owning your own desire, leaves you at the mercy of that desire in every moment. It gets you pulled this way and that, your own dreamy neediness ready to blind you to pitfalls and consequences as you chase the next thing, the next person that you want to believe will save you.
No matter how smart and disciplined you get, though, desire never leaves you. Eros, in its most pure and grandest sense, is always a part of any human life, for a life without desire is a life without life. Humans always have needs and humans always have dreams, even if they are for a better world, for the happiness and protection of those we love.
If you can’t get rid of desire, how do you stop it from controlling you? The only way is to put desire in context, being willing to delay, defer or deny gratification through willpower, forsaking the the quick thrill in the cause of avoiding distraction or mess, in the goal of achieving something better and higher.
Even if you begin to step away from quick desire,though, those around you will still have needs, will still make choices to get what they desire, which is often simply being desired.
What we do for love has always shaped us, and not in the most gracious or enlightened way.
Healers feel the same needs as anyone else. The only difference is how they focus those needs to service and compassion rather than to indulgence and manipulation. Healers maintain good boundaries and work to transcend the base, transforming their passion into something more focused and well bounded.
When we struggle to control our desire rather than letting it control us, we begin to lift ourselves towards our higher nature. This may be baffling, challenging and mystifying to those who stay in their needs, but it seems to me to be the only way to find a bit of light and claim our own healing beyond the impulse to chase for the next someone or something which magically make us complete and healed.
Still, wouldn’t it be nice if all those magical and romantic stories were actually true? Isn’t it lovely to imagine them happening to us?
The ultimate romance is with life, service and divinity. Other humans are just the way we learn those lessons.