Wednesday, October 22, 2003


Sometimes you just can’t get what you want. In spite of all your meticulous planning you end up a victim of cruel hope. It provides for even more angst-ridden moments when you have actually spent time fantasizing about having it, imagining how different things would be with the thing in your possession – because, in the heat of fervid projections, you were more than relatively sure of success.

But life is like that. Nothing is certain, and while desire colors existence in hues that are attractive, often it is better not to want something at all, and perhaps just settle for the drabness of the ordinary.

Think about how you were before you became aware of possibilities, before you imagined owning the thing. Were you not in the least content? Wasn’t your life more than simply bearable but perhaps even wonderful? When the object of desire made itself apparent, why did things change? Why did you suddenly decide that the status quo was insufficient?

The tragic thing is this: you cannot go back to the moment when you weren’t aware. Because you already know, having been exposed to the temptation of possession.

In business, this situation comes about with clients who promised you projects, only to sink your expectations at the last minute. Or with a pitch you were so certain of winning. Or by sinking money and investing in a service line you thought would be a shoo-in. Or in expanding your staff numbers in a fit of irrational exuberance.

In love, any number of dramatic circumstances line up for perusal. When the expectations between you and your partner are misaligned - when marriage is a dream for one, but not even an option for the other. When societal taboos prevent even platonic friendship from blossoming. When you desire a married woman. Or when you don’t want to be desired by a married woman. When you engage in a secret life that threatens to overwhelm your hard-won normalcy. Perhaps even when you dream or experiment or test the boundaries of propriety.

In life, desire spurs you to make more money to afford more desirable things – a house, a second car, maids, a vacation, three more kids. It squeezes you out of your comfortable circle of safety (your routine, your budget, your predictable friends) and pushes you to attempt something you know you cannot afford – materially, emotionally, spiritually.

If it is impossible to turn a blind eye to desire, then what are we to do? Live a life of denial, fearful of consequences and slaves to Excel spreadsheets? Is it possible to look desire in the eye and honestly honestly honestly say “No, I’d rather not” and still feel like you haven’t robbed yourself? Or is it better to jump in, damn the torpedoes, and screw the aftermath?

Some people think so. Some people don’t.

In the face of desire, your arsenal (rightly or wrongly) includes: your senses of dignity, pride, and propriety; your will and self-control; your maturity; your ability to live both in the now and in the future; your perspectives on action/reaction, fear and what the world owes you; your take on fidelity, responsibility and love; and what happiness means to you.

But the truth is that desire is capable of shutting down each one of these listed things one at a time or en mass.

If you so desire.

So what now?


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