Steph raised an interesting point. I did, admittedly, limit the original scope of my theory to just the desire to receive attention from members of the opposite sex. But following a conversation today I’m tempted to go back to a much older theory.
The theory requires a few definitions. For starters, let’s define “want” as the impulse to have something which you do not currently have in your possession. “Satisfaction” then will be the impulse to keep something which is currently in your care. “Desire” will be a “want” which manifests itself as a motivating factor in your choices. “Contentment” will be a similar construct for “satisfaction”.
It’s somewhat difficult for me to come up with well defined words for the concepts I’m attempting to discuss. Each of these words have multiple connotations, and I doubt I’ve picked anyone’s favorite use for these words. I suppose then that a few examples are in order.
I “want” a Wii. I think they’re going to be cool, and when they release in a month, I’ll certainly consider picking one up if I come across one sitting all lonely on a shelf somewhere. Now, between now and then, that impulse to get a Wii may turn into something which no longer passes as quickly as it comes. I may start saving up for it, or maybe I’ll put down a pre-order deposit. This “want” that turns into a lasting, consistent impulse to acquire is what I’m going to refer to as “desire”.
Now, I am “satisfied” with my Xbox360. We’ve got a Windows Media Center PC that we connect to from the 360 for all our music/movie/tv needs. It’s a pretty slick set up, but there are any number of computers laying around the apartment that could fill the gap. Even so, it’s pretty much become the focal point for my entertainment, and frankly, I’m not sure I could do without it. There is a motivation then to do things to keep it working well, this impulse to do so is what I’m calling “contentment”.
So, the theory works something like this. First, one should strive to avoid “contentment” and “desire”. Second, one should strive to avoid a “want” or “satisfaction” for a thing in particular. So what I’m essentially saying is that impulses that shape your actions are best left alone, and that impulses for specific things whether in your possession or otherwise should be held suspect.
I have a buddy who “desires” a wife. No woman in particular, he just wants a warm body to play that role in the drama of his life. This becomes increasingly evident every single time he meets a woman. He’s extremely attentive, and goes well out of his way to make them feel included in the group. Periodically, he “wants” a girl in particular, which ultimately results in a very awkward situation for the entire group.
Now, if he simply “wanted” a wife, I would have no argument. This is certainly a justifiable impulse, and has served mankind fairly well for millennia. But the “desire” redirects his actions, and he makes it clear that he’s showing this attention because he’s hunting for a mate. As an amusing aside, I would always encourage this type of behavior, but because he’s only doing this as some variant on showing his colorful plumage, I’m a little critical. It’s not the “what”, it’s the “why”.
It is interesting to me that I would consider it important to be “content” with your wife, to turn the impulse to keep her safe into a motivating force. I think though that other than family, there aren’t too many things with which I think one should be “content” (again, as I’ve defined above).
So to go back to the earlier post on the Politics of Attraction, I do not, in any way, think there is anything wrong with intimacy. I do think that “wanting” a particular kind of intimacy with a particular person is probably best avoided, and “desiring” intimacy is also best avoided. In essence, wanting either sex with or attention from a particular person is, in my opinion, wrong. And allowing your want for sex or attention to motivate your actions in any way is a motivation that should be put down like a rabid panda.
I especially thank Steph for opening my eyes to the bigger question at hand. It certainly becomes muddled and complex when you try to distinguish different levels of intimacy and how different groups of people react to the desire for such intimacy. I think that the important factor is not the type of intimacy, but the extent to which that desire for intimacy begins to direct and control one’s actions.
Let me think: “If I were a Buddhist, I would neither tell you nor not tell you.”
And: “If I desire something, that is wrong, and if I desire to not desire something, that is wrong. This implies that I think the word wrong does not mean what I think it means.”
My name is on the blog!!! Yea!! I feel special. :) Almost never do actual names make it on the blog. Thanks!
I really like the desire/want paradigm, by the way.
Love you, brother.
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