Monday, January 18, 2021

11 - Desire

In the labyrinth of the Minotaur: DESIRE 

 1 – Visual example of the creation of a desire in persuasive action

Marketing experts know how to induce a desire into an average human brain with the aid of dream-like fairy tales. Considering that this kind of publicity is very expensive, we can assume that inducing a desire to buy a luxury item seems to work pretty well. 

2 – Two flashlights on desire 

  • Little is needed to make a wise person happy, but nothing can content a fool. That is why nearly all people are miserable. 
La Rochefoucauld 

  • Desire is the essence of humans. 
B. Spinoza 

 3 – Two questions 

 • How do you stop a desire without desiring it?
 • Can you still desire what you already “have”?

What desire says in its most basic form, 
every and each day of your life: 

I want … 
I want … 
I want … 

4 – Desire in language games

  • Everything, too, is pleasant for which we have the desire within us, since desire is the craving for pleasure. 

Desire, once again and as so many other concepts, is one of these words with a very large semantic extension, which means that from wanting something to eat and drink to our passional longing for a beautiful human mammal, a bigger house and a perfect life, all fits under the umbrella concept of desire (which covers “wanting, wishing, longing, craving, …”). 

 A desire can mean something like a shallow wish, a strong craving, or it can give rise to an unrestrainable obsession, that includes intrusive thoughts which we can’t stop and where we agonize that if we don’t get the desired object we will be miserable all of our life (another misinterpretation of a fleeting emotional reality!). (Additional comment: You will be miserable in any case, so don’t worry too much!) 

To desire is to want something or somebody, where as to love it is to have it already. The desire is strongest when there are obstacles to overcome to reach your desired “object”. Once the object is yours the desire vanishes, or that’s the main stream narrative. Others say, that this is not true in the case of human love relationships and you can have a passionate love life with your spouse forever and ever and some hours more. 

 Some psychologists say that there is something like a biological and mental law of diminishing desire, whereas others say this law doesn’t exist. For you to choose what best fits your own experience. In general, the longer a once desired “object” is yours and near to you, the less desire (longing, craving) your mind-body unit creates. But as always, there may be exceptions to the general rule! But, as the word exception says, there are always fewer cases in this category than in the general rule. 

 Having no desires means no future, no hope, no inspiration and no motivation to do and reach anything. The evolutionary design of humans gave them desires and emotions by default, because evolution “wants” us to work and do things, otherwise moving and moved beings wouldn’t survive. 

Our desires are the fuel for our mind-body engine to engage with the outside world, and they guide us in everyday life. They focus our attention and give us a personal and very subjective meaning for the things we commit or ommit to do. Desires motivate us to do things, to search for food, to go hunting or to earn money, all with the goal for getting the desired “objects” we want and need. 

 Although everything humans do is permeated by desire, at the same time we are rarely conscious why we desire what we desire. For buddhists our desires lead to suffering, since our desires about the future lead to fear and anxiety, and our (not) fulfilled desires of the past lead to the emotional pain of anger, sadness and grief. 

Some of our mental and emotional sufferings have to do with the deceptional nature of our desires, that means, that once you reached your desired object or goal, the magic fades away very fast, and you may ask yourself: “Is that my beautiful house? Is that all?” 

Nowadays the word “desire” is used more in relation to our longing or craving for another human being, but the process of desiring and fulfilling our desire is the same, that means we will be more or less disappointed whether we reach our goal or not. 

Romantic love a la Romeo and Juliet has a quite short lifespan, and if they had lived longer and married each other they would have gotten divorced 10 years later or ended up as an average couple with their everyday problems of who washes the dishes and who gets the garbage out, who bathes the kids and brings them to bed. 

After a long days work, 10 hours in the office, going shopping, preparing food, taking care of the kids, cleaning the house, etc. the desire for an intimate relation can diminish by quite a few degrees, as humans only have a certain amount of energy to go through the day. 

 A prolonged and imagined eternal desire is more likely something for mythical beings who live outside the realms of physical and biological laws, which implies that they are freed of household chores and they don’t have to do the laundry and can express their desire without hesitation: 

  •  "Sita invades my entire being and my love is entirely centered on her; Without that lady of lovely eyelashes, beautiful looks, and gentle speech, I cannot survive, O Saumitri.” 

Desire in real life marriage 

Rule of thumb # 9:

 In this world there are only two tragedies
 One is not getting what one wants, 
 and the other is getting it. 
Oscar Wilde 

 5 – When do we need it? 

 Human beings desire during the whole of their lives. Without desires we wouldn’t get up in the morning, we wouldn’t work and in the end we wouldn’t do anything (which isn’t good for our survival, but it would be much better for all the other non-human beings!). We want (desire) something to drink, to eat, to see, to hear, to touch, … the whole day long. 

One desire follows the other, in an endless stream of “I want, I need, I want, I would like, …” The desires we feel and/or create depend on our actual inner state and on our outer environment, what we see, hear and touch. 

Humans continually experience desire, so they are oblivious to its presence in them. It is like breathing air all day long, we do it constantly and we only know of its vital importance when there is no air, like when we are under water. To live means that your brain and your body indicate you what they want and what you need: air to breath, water to drink, food to eat, human mammals to touch. As long as you live you want (need) these “objects”. During your younger years your parents and society at large will tell and indicate you which things are more correct to desire and which things are less. 

Nobody teaches us how to desire, either it’s innate or we learn it just by observing others and the outside world. Anything can grab our attention and then – most of the time - we want it. Especially we want the things others have but we don’t. That is as good as any other pretext to feel envy and to get into problems. 

 Once you start entering the so called real life, which is working in a job you don’t like and competing for social status you shouldn’t care about so much, then you’re lost to all the desirable items your social environment offers you for your hard earned money. The more stuff you buy, the deeper you sink into the trap of endless and repetitive desires. Welcome to the brave new eternal consumption!  

Here a link to an article where you can read about the effects of our desires for artifical objects: 

 Title: Global human-made mass exceeds all living biomass

Sometimes, especially in times of war and/or a pandemic, just like now during 2020 and 2021, we only want to have back our former life, which in hindsight doesn’t seem so boring anymore. As always, during all times and in all situations, there are some people more resilient than others. What helps most people to survive any kind of proof or hardship is having a meaning in life, living not only for oneself but for other people or some greater goal as well. Or, as somebody wrote some time ago: 

 S/He who has a Why to live for 
can bear almost any How. 

 6 – Evolutionary aspects

 As already mentioned, a desire is an emotion of longing and craving for something or someone we don’t have. The thought of obtaining the desired “object” gives us pleasure and excitement and we decide to take action to obtain the coveted object. Although some people have less desires than others, and some put an enormous amount of desire in not having desires at all, most people desire some object after another all their life. 

There’s no end of desiring or wanting something, it ends when either you’re deeply depressed, so you’re in a catatonic state, and nothing matters anymore, or when you’re dead, which is the lucky state of joyous non-being, where and when even less than nothing matters. Human life needs the push of desires to subsist and to continue, and our desires do their assigned role of life sustainers and life-enhancers quite well, maybe all too well. 

Humans have desires since they help in the survival and reproduction of the human species. We want things like ice cream, french fries, a bigger house (status) and beautiful human mammals because they give us temporal pleasure, and therefore they are desirable objects which we want to obtain. 

 But when we have the object we wanted, we are content only for a short while, since happiness doesn’t increase our motivation to work hard and strive for new things. So what generally happens is that as soon as a desire is met, we feel somehow betrayed that we are not more excited and our brain is already generating new desires to keep us going on the evolutionary highway. 

 Our desires are the “motionless mover” of our actions, they exist for helping us only to survive and reproduce, they are not there to give us eternell bliss or everlasting happiness. Our brain, in close collaboration with our body, generates the desires we need to go on living in real life, which means, once you’ve attained something, you need and want something else, and so on, until the day you kick the bucket. 

 Desire envolves human life from its beginning until the end. If there was no desire all human mammals would be like robots or machines without electricity and without any reason to go on functioning. Sometimes it looks like we’re near already, but maybe for other reasons! 

7 – Desires are useful for 

• Having a hunger and drive for life. 
• Getting up from bed every day and going to work. 
• To create a life in relation to your desires. 
• Having something to live for. 
• Spending a lot of money and energy on useless stuff. 
• Working like a maniac to get the next coveted SUV. 
• Without some form of desire you wouldn’t do anything. 
• To show that you are a highly valuable participant of the consumerist society. 
• To obtain fame and a higher status, so you’re nearer the spotlights of high society, you become a VIP. 
 • Never being satisfied with the things you already have. 
• To ask and long for more and more and more and more … 
• To cover up the whole Earth (oceans included) with thrown away plastic bottles and other indestructable trash. 
• To find a mate and to make your life more beautiful or more complicated (underline whatever applies to your case). 
• Buying a bigger house, a more expensive car and owing more money to the bank than what you will earn in 499 lightyears. 
• Getting into serial monogamic couple relationships = getting married and divorced over and over again (another form of consumption with its limited time frame of happiness!) 
• Others: … 

8 – Forms of desire 

 A list of how to label desires in relation to its form or type. This is just an intellectual exercise of no further consequences and some of the listed desires can belong to different categories at the same time: 

Instrumental desires: You need them to obtain your terminal desire. Like when you are hungry (terminal desire) you have to buy food, prepare it, etc., which would be labeled as instrumental desires. 

Terminal desires: To eat, to drink, to touch, to hug, … Terminal desires are born out of feelings and a lack of something, that means the body speaks to the brain and this one produces hormones and neurotransmitters that tell you that you need something to eat or drink right now. It pushes you to do something with the age old method of carrot and stick, that means in this case, with pain and pleasure. 

Hedonic desires: All the ones that supposedly and really give us pleasure, and make us feel good. But beware, not everything that makes you feel good in the moment is good for you in the long run. 

Physiological desires: Hunger, thirst, the emotional and bodily presence of other humans, friendship, love, … 

 Natural desires: “Things” we need to survive: Food, shelter, security, love and care from others when we are young or sick. 

Cultural desires: Only make sense because there are other people around with whom we compare ourselves, so fame and status in a given group comes up with a vengeance. To increase your status token you need to earn more money, buy a bigger house, get a Ferrari or Lexus, impress other people with your importance as a Fe/Male Alpha. These desires only exist because we live in a given society and we all fight, like trees in a forest, for the best place under the sun or spotlight of society. These cultural desires vary from one society to another. If you like to be the center of the show and you want to be the leader of the gang, then you are bound to the cultural imperatives of the moment and if everything goes well, one day you will reach what you desired so long ago. And then? You may be content and happy or not! You will see! 

Some people write about primary and secondary desires, whereas in cultural environments different from the West (Western Europe, USA, ...) other organization of 'desires' may prevail.

For example four different forms of desire in Indian Philosophy and spiritual texts:

Dharma can be understood as a motivational and a learning desire. It keeps people on theIr predesigned path, helping them  to learn and to mature in the process, while simultaneously fulfilling their purpose here on earth.

Artha is the second type of desire and it moves you towards the things you need for everyday life.. It’s about earning money, buying a house, and millions of other objects humans need for a comfortable existence.

Kama is the  third form of desire and it is a life affirming force  that pulls us to choose the things, situations and people that give us pleasure.  So choose well, since Kama may interfere with you Dharma!

Last but not least, Moksha is the desire to reach your essential, no changing self.

9 – Shadow sides of desire 

Greed, obsession and monomania. 

Greed: To desire more and more and more and more and never be satisfied. That could be the fate of quite a lot people in the richer societies of planet Earth. You accumulate more or less useful or useless objets and you don’t enjoy any of them. You become insatiable, and you think that the next object will make you happy forever, but then again, … 

Obsession and monomania: Happens when you lose yourself in the real or imaginary conquest of one desired object. All your focus and energy goes into that meta, nothing else exists anymore. You are taken over by a force you can’t control, but it controls you and your life now and the one still to come. Sometimes you may even forget to eat, drink and sleep, with all the negative consequences for your mind-body unit and your health. In monomania you don’t reach and fulfill a desire, but the desire consumes you. A similar process, but with a happy ending included, when the two lonely and suffering hearts melt into one, is the prefered theme for romantic novels and movies. 

10 - How to increase your desire meter

 Better not, humans desire already far too many “objects”.

en la prision del deseo estoy
junto a ti ...

Rule of thumb # 10: 

 If thou wilt make a man happy, add not unto his riches 
but take away from his desires. 

11 Four examples of desire in literature and/or real life

  • The non-existent was not, the existent was not; then the world was not, nor the firmament, nor that which is above (the firmament). How could there be any investing envelope, and where?... … 
  • In the beginning there was desire, which was the first seed of mind; sages having meditated in their hearts have discovered by their wisdom the connexion of the existent with the non-existent
Rig Veda, Mandala 10, hymn 129 
(Transl.: H. H. Wilson) 

  • Hannibal: No. He covets. That is his nature. And how do we begin to covet, Clarice? Do we seek out things to covet? Make an effort to answer now. 
  •  Clarice: No. We just... 
  • Hannibal: No, we begin by coveting what we see every day. Don't you feel eyes moving over your body, Clarice? And don't your eyes seek out the things you want? 
  • Clarice: All right, yes. Now please tell me how... 
Thomas Harris 
The silence of the lambs 

Man consists of desire (kama), 
As his desire is, so is his determination, 
As his determination is, so is his deed, 
Whatever his deed is, that he attains. 
Brhadaranyaka Upanishad

He was head and shoulders above everyone else without wanting to, he had simply stopped desiring.
E. Cioran
The temptation to exist

12 - Coda 

  • Desire says: I want that. (And a little bit later) I want something else. And I want that too! … 
  • Mission: Accumulation (good for survival). 
  • Predisposition to act: To buy, to search for …, to conquer, to consume,  … 
  • Shadow: Greed, monomania (Over-accumulation and over focusing). 
  • Force: Direction, focus. 
  • Energy level: high to very high.

So if you get lost Meet me in the blue cafe 
Time for a cigarette or two 
Eternity is a good place only for lovers 
We'll dance in the blue cafe 
Time for a song or two 
And Heaven is a good place only for happy people 

 Rule of thumb # 11 
  • The power of wanting something so badly is always stronger than the satisfaction of getting. 

Rule of thumb # 12 
  • Whatever you want – desire – or long for so badly, once you have it, habituation sets in and the person or thing loses its interest, it fades into the background of your daily numbness.

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