|You do not have to be good.|
You do not have to walk on your kneesfor a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your bodylove what it loves…
I grew up in a subculture, a religious one, that taught me desire was something to be cautious about, repressed even, especially if sexual in nature. Desire was synonymous with my “carnal nature”, something to avoid since it was likely selfish, unholy, and probably cloaked in lust and ungodliness. This may sound harsh, or potentially dramatic. Truthfully it was my experience. And, through my research on female embodiment and sexuality, I am not the only one. This is a narrative that has been around for centuries.
Over the last number of years, my relationship to desire has been mending. Desire has reacquainted herself with me. Actually, it is more that I have reacquainted myself with her. She never left me.
It never felt right, or good to silence desire in me. My Mum often told me, when asked what I was like as a little girl, that I was a passionate child. If I was happy, I was ecstatic. If I was sad, I was deeply, deeply sad. My emotions were the most real thing to me. My imagination was unhinged and my wanting unapologetic – at least that is how I, and she, remembers it. This type of make up as a human, alongside the socio-religious teachings about quieting myself felt dichotomous and strange. Unnatural to be honest. Not true, not real.
I want what is true. I want the real. The most raw, primal and spiritual experiences of being human. I long for and have longed for, as cliché as it sounds, to experience fullness of life. I think this likely comes from my anxieties around death. But, Existential theorists would say, it is the reality of death that makes us live our lives, as fully as we know how.
Do you know what I mean?
I have been sitting with Desire all week. It has been near me. When I looked up the etymology of the word desire I discovered something I didn’t know. The word desire carries meaning that we are mostly familiar with, “wanting”, or “to wish for”. But it can also be traced back to the Latin word desiderare which can mean “to await what the stars will bring”. My god I love that. I think I love it because it evokes this sense of something bigger than myself involved in my life. Whether it be the stars, astrology, God, the Universe, whatever name you want to give it — desire is rooted in the spiritual realm of existence. It is mystical. Desire urges us to need something magical in order to quench it.
I think this is why our desire is so potent. It pulls us outside of ourselves a little bit, and urges us to hope in something that we don’t always have control over. It can overtake us. It consumes us. Desire is scary. But not in the way that I was taught to fear it. It is scary because it is powerful. It reminds us of what we long for and may not have. It is something we feel, and cannot always see. We entrust ourselves to it. What liberation. What power. It doesn’t have to be harmful. I wish I was taught, all those years back then, to befriend and embrace my desire so as to be liberated and to liberate others.
What do you actually, deeply want? What are the desires you have within you that perhaps you have buried because, well it was just easier to not want, to not risk disappointment? Where is desire asking you to look, to feel, to touch, to dream?
Desire keeps us going, doesn’t it? It’s the fuel for me anyway, to see the unlived places in my heart that want to be lived. It is stronger some days than others. But when it is strong, it is strong. And it needs my attention. Calling me to lean in and listen.
I leave you with a passage from John O’ Donohue on Desire:
“Our dreams and fantasies showcase the directions in which our desire would love to lead us. Dreams are narratives of desire. We can learn the forms of longing within us, if we attend to our dreaming. There should always be a healthy tension between the life we have settled for and the desires that still call us. In this sense our desires are the messengers of our unlived life, calling us to attention and action while we still have time to explore the fields where the treasure dwells!”