Deconstruction of Desire

I feel so wise right now. I’m watching small hopes leap up – able to hear, see, and feel kindly toward them, from a distance.

A few days ago, elation surged when I saw an event announcement. It lifted me, like a frog launched from a lily pad. Oh wow, I would love to go to that. Trouble ensued: tiny spears of doubt flew around. Skirmishes between hope for the event, and self-protection against disappointment, got my attention – activating the inner scientist that observes, guesses at cause-effect, tests, and finally theorizes about hidden motivations. (This process is great for fictional character development: illuminating why the character wants to take a certain action.)

Observing raw lifeforce (eros, desire) move through me in the leap itself, under layers of conditioned expectations, flooded the experiment with tender acknowledgment about being alive: creatures evolve by self-optimizing in an evolving environment. This is how Nature made us.

Once I found myself in the compassionate witness seat, I could review dozens of earlier frog-jumping experiences (same word as experiments). The key was to re-feel the raw impulse stimulate the desire for action (and results), and then notice all the hopes that had saddlebagged onto it. Literature (page and screen) is full of this: “If I do ABC, which I can see, and seems possible, then I’ll get (an unrelated, even unacknowledged) XYZ” – usually redemption, respect, safety, and/or love – with threats looming if the mission fails (which is the heart of drama, in art and life, captured in Eliot’s “hope for the wrong thing”).

Watching these complicated interactions, I remembered scientific cause-effect terms, full of “antecedent” and “confounding” variables: what came before (antecedent to) this event, and what’s intermixed (confounded) with what I’m looking at, might both be part of the cause. Am I asking this event to solve and respond to a host of desires that may not be in its purview? Is this analogous to expectations that blossom in person-to-person relationships?

As I watched the idea of desire break apart into dozens of complex motivating variables, I remembered Eastern teachings about the root of suffering being desire. Maybe the suffering is from being unconsciously compelled by it, and there’s liberation in being able to witness it, even appreciate the lifeforce in it, make art and conscious choices from it, without having to squash it, to rid oneself of it as some recommend. Watching desire emerge and attempt to influence by making promises, appreciating Nature’s creative genius, might be easier in realizing that the problem is not desire, but the expectation that its satisfaction will bring happiness, peace, and transcendence.

[Thanks to Kermit and Mark Twain for the frog archetypes, and to Kyle Cease: I received his emailed link to his charming video, just after finishing the first draft of this post.]

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