The spring edition of the Wall Street Journal Magazine has a column in which six luminaries are asked to weigh in on a single topic. The chosen topic, given the proximity of the issue to Valentine’s Day, was “desire”. Before reading what the six chosen individuals replied, I decided to write down my own thoughts on desire, aware that I would never be considered a luminary by the WSJ (what do they know!) and share it with you.
The first word to flash across my consciousness was “need.” Why did I pick “need” instead of “want”? I suspect the answer lies in the writings I shared with you on this blog regarding happiness, and what research (and my own experience) has uncovered concerning this topic. Living in our materialistic society, we are constantly bombarded with messages about things advertisers want us to buy, be they fancy watches, the latest in electronic gizmos, hot cars, or luxury vacations. The implication of all their pitches is that if only we purchased their product, it would make us happy, or at least happier than we already are. For those of you who succumbed to their siren song, reflect on how long you remained happy after obtaining the object of your desire. None of us are completely immune to the wants our society pitches us, but those of us who have learned that scratching the itch the purveyors of products have created for us offers no lasting benefit.
I find that when you have filled the basic needs of life – food on the table, shelter from the elements, people you love who are capable of loving you, a connection with the world that offers you meaning, and the freedom to live your life as you see fit, there is little else that I need, so I have no desire for more stuff. I consider myself most fortunate, and remain grateful each day for having received these blessings. There remains for all of us, whether we realize it or not, a need for spiritual connection. The road to this connection some find in their chosen religion, though spirituality and religion are far from being the same. The stories of sacred writings, of saints and mystics, are all stories of those attempting to fill the desire that lives in the consciousness in each of us. Finding my way on this path remains a pilgrimage in progress.
As for the luminaries of the WSJ: Rosamund Pike, an Emmy winning actress equates desire with the forbidden, as desire for her has to have an element of unattainability. She finds it interesting to explore what happens when all-consuming desire goes to otherwise moral people. Viet Thanh Nguyen, a writer and English professor at USC, finds desire as fundamental in creating conflict within a story, without which there is no drama. His stories tend to focus on sexual desires, and their frustrations. Mariana Van Zeller, award winning investigative journalist never defined desire, just expressed it as her wanting to connect with people and humanize them, and to learn what led her to take risks in getting her stories. Francis Fukuyama, professor of political science at Stanford, used the Greek definition of thymos, the deepest form of desire when another person desires you. He then veers off to talk about people who are angry because they don’t feel respected, and goes on to riff about Capitalism, which in his view only fills material desires, but not human ones. KAWS (Brian Donnelly) is an artist. He describes desire as the guiding light of all things personal and creative, and goes on to list the elements he desires in his life. Kim Ng is the general manager of the Miami Marlins. She describes desire as coming from your essence, and how her immigrant story helped define her, and gave her the strength to get into professional baseball as a woman.
It’s interesting that “desire” is both a verb and noun. How does your definition of desire match up with mine, or those of the six people the WSJ chose to profile? Your comments and thoughts are always welcome.