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The Case for Desire

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Hint: your smartphone is symptom not cause

Advertisers bank on it. Ascetics deny it. Libertines fan it while most of us try to tame it. Desire always drives behavior. The question is training ourselves to desire the best things, which are often not the immediate things. Habit can work for or against us in training desire. But it is desire—that glowing reactor in my mind/heart/instinct—that pushes me toward some object that has just now become irresistible.

Beautiful things can grow from years of tending

Beautiful things can grow from years of tending

But when desire fails—what then? That sounds perfect, right? Always in control.

Not so much: In talking with my depressed friend, desire seems suppressed and/or forgotten and nothing matters. Nothing is interesting. Tiredness, life-weariness, stress, maybe age—all of these seem to affect desire. Without desire, curiosity vanishes. Without curiosity, life’s luster languishes.

How to rekindle desire—and especially desire for things/people/relationships that will prove generative after five, ten, or 70 years?

My hunch is that my smartphone is not the secret to rekindling the right desire. Whatever is being sold there is likely not the direction that will sustain over the long haul. Gratitude seems a potential route to rekindled desire—on this point, both my atheist friend and the poet-king agree. A good conversation with a person full of life may rekindle desire.

Connection may rekindle desire. If your smartphone helps make connections with real humans, that’s good.

If not, focus.

Elsewhere.

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Image credit: Kirk Livingston

Written by kirkistan

May 13, 2015 at 1:00 pm

Not Resolutions: New Year’s Experiments

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What will you try next?

Another way to approach the beginning of the year.

Science constantly tries to rid experiments of bias and prejudice. Medical researchers set up double-blind, randomized studies in an attempt to remove personal bias and to avoid the temptation to game the results according to how we want to see them. Bias always and forever creeps in—it is part and parcel of the human condition.

But what if, instead of looking for work-arounds for our basic subjectivity, we embraced our very human bias and used it to move forward? Not so much in science experiments and medical trials, but in our personal lives?

Experiment-2-01022015

A theologian tweeted the other day about the lack of research and experiments in theological studies. He was right, in theological research you do not see big multi-center clinical trials running across the country. Partly because pharmaceutical companies are not lining up to fund such studies. And when they do, we’ll have an entirely new class of worries about drug-induced faith.

But, in fact, we each experiment constantly. Each of us in our own way. We experiment with ways of living. We experiment with belief systems: trying this or that to solve those deep questions. We allow ourselves to be deeply affected by what our friends, family, colleagues and neighbors believe. These experiments are a simple fact of how the human condition works. We game the system all the time and it works.

Or not (and even then, we know something new).

Some of us make resolutions this time of year. Others of us try to set direction (versus resolutions) for the year in an attempt to avoid the dismal reality of resolutions quickly broken.

But how about running your own set of experiments this year?

My friend suffers acute anxiety. It’s not a clinical condition, just solid worry as a way of life. She would like to not be such a worrier. My suggestion was an experiment in trust. Pick up nearly any of the poems by the poet-king and simply do what he did. In plain, persistent, passionate language, exclaim and define with agonizing precision the current situation and ask for release. Or help. Or mercy. The poet-king talked frankly to God—which seems like a solid experimental idea for any of us.

Experimenting with our dissatisfactions is not that bad an idea. Last year I tried to write a novel in a month (National Novel Writing Month) and I tried to make a sketch a day. Both attempts were wildly unsuccessful. But as experiments they announced solid directions by the end: write more fiction and keep practicing drawing. Last year I also experimented with following the poet-king’s example. My subjective results were mixed and positive and pointed in a direction: more trust. And more gratitude.

What subjective experiments will you run this year on your guinea-pig self?

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Image credit: Kirk Livingston

Written by kirkistan

January 2, 2015 at 10:45 am

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