Tag Archives: desire

Love and other feelings

Love is generally presented as a reaction. It is styled in books and films as an unexpected, uncontrollable thing that just happens in response to one special person. As someone who loves plurally, I’ve always found that part of our stories about love rather difficult. And of course what just happens mysteriously can also be assumed to just go away, equally mysteriously. If we make ourselves powerless in face of it, can’t control it, can’t control ourselves… very little good comes of this.

Attraction can be very sudden – a simple animal desire based on the appearance of the other person. I chalk these up as entertaining but have never acted on it. Desire can be fleeting, and isn’t reliable. I have always been more interested in what a person has going on inside them than how they look.

It’s usually what people do that affects me – what they create, how they think, what they share of themselves, what I can do with them. Love, in all its various shapes and forms can take root in this kind of soil.

Then there are the others, the remarkable, life altering love affairs that have shaped me, and continue to do so. The people whose fingerprints remain on my soul. Looking at those relationships I am conscious of how important deliberate choice has been – mine and theirs. The choice to be vulnerable, to offer something of self, to care, to be open to care in return. Stepping deliberately into more involved ways of relating. Undertaking to love.

The most important love affairs in my life haven’t been accidents of attraction. They’ve been choices. Not just the choice to have a go, but the day by day choices about how I deploy my time and energy, what I pay attention to and what I choose to give. It isn’t something I’ve thought about in quite these terms before, though. I do not belong in the conventional narrative in which love is an accident. Love is something I choose to experience and bestow, and that people dealing with me choose to accept or reject.

Wanting and spirituality

I’ve been considerably exposed to the idea (mostly, but not exclusively Buddhist) that as wanting is the cause of all suffering, the goal of the spiritual life is to free the self from want. What this line of thought does not express so clearly is the logic underpinning it. To escape from wanting is to escape from living. It’s a process of transcending the realities of this life, on the assumption that something better than this life is available. Many religions are, in essence, about getting out of all this nasty, messy, hurty physicality and on to the good stuff.

As a Druid, my spiritual life is rooted in the earth. As a maybeist, I just don’t have the clarity of belief about afterlife to want to dedicate this one to reaching for what might or might not come next. If an approach isn’t relevant right now, it’s not going to work for me. (Other people with other beliefs and world views are welcome to do differently, this is not a judgement of anyone else’s perspective, just an expression of what works for me and what doesn’t.) As I don’t want to transcend this life, do I need to uphold the same approach to wanting that is held by religions that are about escaping from the physical? I think not. Avoiding want is only a spiritual virtue if it connects to the spiritual goal of transcendence. We’ve turned want into a suspect thing. ‘I want doesn’t get’ and all that.

Recently James blogged at Contemplative Inquiry about wanting, and I wanted to respond in some way… so here we are.


I want


Not climbing imagined ladders

To pure, elated wants

That are other-named



Not flesh transcending

Life denied

Nor pain ignoring

Not so live


Only raw truth

Animal self

Tired, hungry,

Living, longing


Vulnerable honest

Yearning, seeking

Questing craving

Desire to exist


No quiet escape

To unfeeling places

Present in want

Gifted in wanting.

Desire and the quest for self

I blogged ages back about trying to build some sense of self. So much of my default behaviour has been reactive, not any kind of ‘me’ and I’m trying to fix that. I’ve mentioned T Thorn Coyle’s Make Magic of your Life a couple of times this week, because it chimed for me in a number of ways, and this is another one of those. One of the concepts driving the book is the importance of desire in defining who we are and what our work in this world is.

What do I desire?

I still have trouble being honest with myself about what I need, and seeking that. I spent too long in circumstances where needs were not being met, and I learned not to think about it too much. I’ve been working on this one, and on being able to want things. Again, historically there were issues about being able to choose for myself – food, clothes, ornamentation, and other personal things. When I was much younger the issues were financial, in later life I found myself under a lot of pressure to be what other people wanted. I didn’t know how to resist that. Now, there is nothing to resist. I can go into clothes shops and wonder what I might wear. I seldom buy anything, I’m just trying to imagine some preferences and feelings. Those are coming. I’m working on letting myself want small, ordinary things, and I’m progressing, but desire?

I want to know what is most essential to me. I think that uncovering and understanding what I desire would go a long way to helping me establish that, and I like the idea that questing after my heart’s desire is a good way of figuring out what my work should be. I love writing, but that’s like saying I love breathing. I feel crap if I don’t do it. There are all manner of things around my relationship with my bloke that fire my imagination, my senses, my intentions. I’m remembering how, when I was much younger, I believed that my work could make a difference and add something good to the world. The loss of that belief crushed a lot of my desires around writing, but I’m rebuilding.

I want to help, and do good stuff. I think a part of what blocks me is disbelief. There’s a partner to desire, a necessary second for that dance to work – some sense that it is possible. Hopeless desire for unobtainable things will not get a person out of bed in the morning. Might as well lie there and dream the day away, and avoid the real life disappointments. Some kind of belief that there is even a shred of a chance, is necessary for undertaking any work. I can do what is necessary as an ‘in the moment’ thing, but I can’t do anything bigger, and as I crack that idea of desire open, the need to do something that makes a difference is clear to me. Doesn’t have to be earth shattering, but it does have to be real, and worth enough to make sense of the effort.

So I think what I desire most at the moment is hope, and I think I’ve got to build that for myself, but that’s something to be working on while I figure out other stuff.