Is desire at the root of everything human?
(We all come from desire.)
I wake up today (everyday,) and not a full minute goes by before I’m thinking about what I want. Coffee, return that phone call, text my crush…. and the list goes on. Every moment of every day, thinking and feeling into what I want. Sometimes getting what I want, sometimes not. Sometimes able to ask for it, sometimes, the desire smoldering inside. Doing all of these human dances, with desire as my constant partner.
It’s got me thinking, this desire thing.
What is it? It seems like every big religion’s got the word on Desire. Recognize this one? “And the woman saw that the tree was good to eat, and it was desirous for the eyes, and the tree was lovely to behold.”
Buddha teaches that attachment to desire is the root of suffering: The second noble truth the origin of suffering: Within the context of the four noble truths, suffering (dukha) is commonly explained as craving.
- Craving for sensory pleasure
- Craving for Union (togetherness)
- Craving to not feel painful feelings (not aloneness)
Shakta Tantra (the Hindu variety which I practice) resolves the fundamental dilemma presented by being human and having desires and those desires causing suffering by directing human desires towards liberation rather than repressing them. This philosophy argues that trying to deny certain desires only empowers them further. Rather than repress potentially harmful impulses, Tantra tries to harness them in service of setting ourselves free.
Of course, Christianity gives a narrow container for the expression of limited desires, and seeks to control through fear and punishment all desires that fall outside that purview.
Pagans seem to welcome desire and pleasure, and don’t fret too much (maybe not enough) about the impact on our spiritual development.
In my admittedly very limited knowledge of Islam, it seeks to provide a code for the expression of human desires, seeking balance between wanting and fulfillment of wanting.
Judaism prescribes a law-filled code for the fulfillment of desire as well, that at least includes pleasure.
None of these ways of engaging desire really work for me. They seem like how it could be, or should be, or an idea…. but not personal enough. My own experience of desire is so complex. It is often glorious, often painful. My desire ignores codes, rejects shoulds, and is often the antithesis of what is culturally conditioned. I wonder if this is not the experience of most of us?
Every person I have ever worked with or discussed sexuality with has expressed their desire in completely unique, and specific-unto-them terms. The only common thread is the liminal, and ever-changing nature of desire, and its insatiable quality.
I want permission for my desire. This process you are reading is about me giving myself permission, and hopefully giving you permission. Imagine, all of us, simply wanting what we want.
I desire things that I am not supposed to desire. I desire much that my socialization tells me are taboo, wrong, disempowered, disgusting, shameful, abhorrent, too far from common decency, too powerful, too violent. I notice my desire like hunger.
Last week, I noticed the gnawing in my belly. I tried to fill it with too much Halloween candy. I tried to fill it with socializing, with sex. I tried to fill it, and then I stopped.
Just noticing the hunger, noticing the emptiness, is so hard. It is so terribly hard to just sit with it. My mind clamors: Try a beer. Try some cuddling. Try a bath. Soothe it, dissipate it, quiet it. Somehow lessen the ravenous void of its immense gaping maw.
Wanting is terrifying. It is the rawest, most bloody form of nakedness that I know. Wanting without a tether, without something at the end of the desire, is what lies at the root of the hungers we try to feed through addictions.
This is what I want, right now.
I want her. I want her precious, big-eyed vulnerability. I want her tenderest tears and fragility. Her badass intellect. Her heartbreak. Her need. I want to make her come and cry, and then wipe her tears with my hair. I want her to want to give her orgasm to me. I want to cut her heart wide open, and take it from her chest, licking the dripping blood off of it (this is a metaphor.) Or maybe I just want her to text me.
I want him. I want his fierce submission. I want his most vroom vroom passionate passion to have room to express. I want him to have the flexibility to turn his crazy erotic energy up and turn it down, at will. I want to see him naked, dancing, feeling completely free within his bondage. I want the intensity of his James Dean eyes turned on me, his unfettered desire throbbing and thrumming as he awaits my instructions for the afternoon. I want him to serve me lunch.
I want to build a container (a world) in which you never again question if you are wanted or desirable.
I want to be able to name my desires freely. (Ironically, while writing this a dear one emails me. In that moment, I find I want him, too, and write and say so. Naming my desire is terrifying.)
I want reassurance that my desires are not too big, too disturbed, too insatiable.
I want to feel poignant, intense feeling. I want to not be separate, insecure, alone. I want erotic community. I want magick and synchronicity. I want clean underwear.
I. want. to. be. taken. care. of.
There are other desires, things named and unnamed, that I will probably never do or have. I name them (and ask you to know that there are others I am not naming here) because I don’t want to offer you a diluted version of the truth of my desire. I don’t want to give you lukewarm permission to be fully, completely in your base human desire. So here is what I also want: I want to sell my body, to make them pay for it. I want to tear and bite with my teeth, rip with my blade. I want to hurt. I want to humiliate and I want to worship. I want to lay my body down and open, prostrate myself in front of the Divine, and offer the service of my meager life.
And it never, ever completely goes away, no matter how close, how intimate, how much power exchange, how much energy, how many orgasms. The wanting remains.
I feel so humbled by the power of my desire. I have spent years trying to quiet it. Trying to feed it. I have this big, fat body to show for it, all my wanting. While there are certain standbys for bringing comfort and offering temporary satiation, I find that even they are growing old and cold and less effective, as I get closer to being able to express the heart of my desire.
What I am learning about desire, as I give myself full permission to want what I want, is that it almost never is what I expect it to be. It is continually surprising and an elegant mysterious process of uncovering what I want in each moment.
Internally, my experience of my desire is sweetly familiar and freshly distinctive and exceptional. I notice I can’t breathe deeply. The best I can do in that moment is to say, “Sitting here, next to you on this couch, touching your hair, I am feeling desire.”
Of course, the next logical question is “What is your desire?” and it is here the breakdown and the loss and the grief occur.
I can only express around the edges of my desire. It is not because I am shy, or inarticulate, or unable to tell you because of shame or repression. It is because when I try to put my desire into words, there is something essential I cannot capture. Using words, I cannot put my yearning into pure form. There is something lost in translation. And no matter how close I get to expressing what I truly want, when you give it to me, there is always another translation gap which I also grieve.
So many different, intricate dances with desire. What I’ve never done is just stay open to it. What is on the other side of this yearning? What is it to not know the answer? What is it to wait, hungrily waiting? What is it to acknowledge that the want in me is the want of the very universe, exploding itself into being? What is it to allow feeling that power, to feel the hunger that will never, no matter what, stop? And even as I contemplate, and practice, just sitting with the wanting, there is that within me that wants to want.
You ask me what I want.
But my dear, although I can never tell you, of course I want you. And I want you to want to be wanted by me. I can’t tell you in words. But my eyes, my eyes can tell you. My eyes can tell you, without losing the pure raw brutal power of my lusting want, my aching need, my unadulterated desire. I want you. Just look in my eyes.