Monday, January 28, 2013

The Nature of Desire

Sunday was extremely peaceful at Eastern Market.

Do you harbor a secret or not so secret perfectionism? Almost everyone I know does, which is so interesting, since there is no such thing as perfection. We homo sapiens can imagine perfection though, in spite of overwhelming evidence that it doesn't exist, or if it does, it is ephemeral. If you blink your eyes, you can miss moments of perfection, such as they may possibly appear.

Because perfection is either non existent or only persists for a quantum second, we mostly long for it. No one has a sustained relationship with perfection. No one. Hence, we humans long. We yearn. A taste of perfection is all we need to get hooked into a lifetime of pursuit.

Barbara Kruger, one of my favorite artists. You can buy a tote bag with this printed on it, at the Hirschhorn. A shopping bag, with these words. Ummm ... perfection.

Why do we spend so much time full of longing for the perfect life, love, job, vacation, hairdo, figure, wardrobe, house, car? Surely there must be some reason. Maybe the yearning itself (as opposed to the idea of what will be perfect) helps us or teaches us in some way. Does our yearning for perfection make our lives perfect? Let's see ... oh yeah ... never! So what does it do for us? Why do we persist? Does it make us wiser, kinder, more compassionate? It should, but does it? I have questions.

Today I'm thinking about all the people I know who - at the brink of early old age - wish for their youth again, or for the potential, the myriad possibilities young people have. All of a sudden, in a way never before possible, we are able to see how our lives could have been perfect. As we reach early old age, many of us go through a phase during which we're more desperate than ever for the perfect lives we had a crack at but of course did not not attain. What are we thinking? We should know better by now!

Longing to put old age wisdom to use in a young body is kind of hilarious, also universal and a part of the human psyche since forever. Young bodies are not wise - they can't be, what with the hormonal imperatives at work. Yearning, as a younger person, is very different. We must mate and have children, expand our fiefdoms, climb various social ladders, be good parents and successful businesspeople. Expansion is the energy of youthful yearning. At age 60, we want to go back for a do-over. Because we think now we know how to do it perfectly.

It's not rational.

When I was young, I was always on the make. That's where I put my longing - I invested a lot of time and energy into thinking about and having sex, really: an Awful Lot of Time. I pretended, even to myself, that it wasn't the most important thing, but it was, it really was.

Appalling, yet - I was normal in that regard, or maybe I can just say I was hormonally healthy. Good lord.

Now I'm almost 60. It's so different now. Where should I direct my longing at this point in time? I'm thinking about it.


The Pollinatrix said...

Oh geez. Where do I begin? I'm turning 45 in less than a month and just found out I'm going to be a grandmother for the first time AND just finally really ended a relationship with my 5-year-old's father who is 16 years younger than me AND I'm in school again for the first time in several years to start a whole new career, which will involve officiating life-cycle ceremonies from baby namings to funerals and everything in between.

So yeah. I'm thinking about lost youth and rites of passage and crushed dreams and new directions and how the hell I got here with this imperfect life and how do I move gracefully into cronedom when I also am still more or less at the beginning of raising my youngest child.

Age is so weird and abstract. Especially in my messy life. But it does seem like a good thing that the messier and older I get, the more my longings are directed toward an inward state of being rather than some outer attainment.

Steve Reed said...

Wow, Reya. We are on the same wavelength again. I was just writing about the nature of dissatisfaction this morning. I think all of us feel it, at any age, though it may manifest as different types of need.

I have those "if-I-knew-then-what-I-know-now" moments all the time. But would I want to relive my younger life? Not really. Ugh.

Reya Mellicker said...

Age IS weird! And you're prescient, Susan.

Steve - cool! And yes we all feel it. We yearn for ... whatever.

Oh if I knew then what I know now ... oh man!

Memory Echoes said...

What I'm about to write may seem like a non sequitur, but it's not. At least, not from my point of view.

I think I remember you writing about being an avid reader of nonfiction and someone who does not enjoy fiction. However...

I've been immersing myself in the writing of Ursula K. Le Guin, and she is so wise. Have you ever read her? I wanted to tentatively suggest you check out her book "The Left Hand of Darkness" (which has nothing to do with what you might think it does from the title). It was published in 1969 and connects so well to that time & this.

Your mind, at least what I know of it, and the things you ponder and experience as a shaman would seem to mesh well with her ideas.

Her writing is as close to perfection as any I've encountered.

Reya Mellicker said...

I read The Left Hand of Darkness many times, many years ago. That book rocked my world. That's when I remembered my Ice Age lifetimes. She is an amazing thinker!