Act of desire:  Greed or Gift?

Raised to instill a religious mindset, I was taught to live a righteous life, renunciating desires that get in the way of seeking God or receiving His Graces. I follow without question and with complete surrender because of Faith.

However, as I embrace my spirituality, certain so-called teachings have become hazy, even meaningless, while others have become completely illogical, at least in terms of how I experience my own life.

Take the concept of desire, for example. Desire has a dark reputation, having been linked to greed or indulgence (worldly desires) and lust (carnal desire).

In fact, when I began searching for a lead photo for this article, the majority of the images that came up were sexually suggestive. This photo was chosen specifically to make you consider what the word desire means to you.

“The 16 basic desires –   power, independence, curiosity, acceptance, order, saving, honor, idealism, social contact, family, status, vengeance, romance, eating, physical exercise, and tranquillity – are what drive our everyday actions and make us who we are.”

 Prof Steven Reiss, New Motivation Theory

Desire is referred to as “nasa” (noun) or “pagnanasa” (verb) in Tagalog (Filipino language). When the word “desire” is mentioned or insinuated, it often has an avaricious undertone. Desire, on the other hand, can be translated as “mithi” (in Tagalog) or aspiration, a more positive, less demonizing definition that emphasizes purposeful action.

“People who have many desires are the poorest of people, Kabir says, and they seldom achieve any success in any field.”

The Four Stages of Desire, G.Guengerich, PhD

The ephemerality of desire should render it harmless. I refuse to agree that one should strive to limit one’s desires to a few, lest they spread themselves too thin, suffer, and die hoping.

Desire is symptomatic of a distinct or even peculiar need to obtain pleasure as a consequence. Likewise, desiring cannot be labeled as amoral or self-destructive. Nor can desires be classed as superficial or reasonable. In this case, desire is only viewed through the moral lenses, and not construed based on the motivation of the desirer.

Desire is also not a precursor to discontent. True, humans never seem to find contentment – Life satisfaction varies from person to person, but I don’t believe this dissatisfaction always equates to covetousness.  Our needs change and shift almost constantly, and to desire is to respond to those changes.

“Life satisfaction is not based on criterion that is deemed to be important, but instead on one’s own cognitive judgments of the factors that you consider to be most valuable.”

Life Satisfaction Theory, C. E Ackerman, MA

Perhaps desire evokes an intensity that tempts one to swim in it long after the desire has faded. But desire cannot be a source of unhappiness because its intention is to arouse pockets of joy, however fleeting that desire may be. Unhappiness can be caused by a maladaptive response to expectations, attachments, or obsessions that emerge with the desire.

Desiring must be done with an open mind, aware that it may or may not be realized. Nonetheless, desiring must not be hampered in the absence of this consciousness, not even by the assumption that much of it will result in failure or unhappiness. Setting too many rules is one of the things that make people unhappy! Religions have this effect on us. Instead of exploring the limitless blessings in store for us on our path to greatness – our birthright – we limit ourselves to moving only within the boundaries set up by fear, doubt, and the unnecessary preoccupation with being right every time.

I desire to be a tree

Desire is a feeling of wanting or creating something that can lead to more satisfying actions or feelings. Unbridled desire can also cause one to ignore red flags if it becomes fixated.

Having multiple desires is not a bad thing or a sign of impending failure. Saying so simply reflects the fact that having desire is considered a taboo. Desire is viewed as a breach of logic or morality rather than a brave act of entertaining possibilities.

Desire reveals a person’s potential as well as their proclivity to act on that desire (I want to be popular) or the potential of a situation. Desire emphasizes/demonstrates the breadth of options available, accessible, or known to the desirer…you can’t desire something you haven’t seen, heard, or considered (like an idea, a concept).

There is no formula for not making mistakes!

Desire is a gift that allows humans to tap into the universe’s limitless possibilities. Desiring exercises another gift, free will, as part of the process of creating one’s own reality. It carries experiences and lessons with it as they unfold or cease.

To desire is to be free of the constraints of real-world circumstances or the limiting assumptions that we can only be happy by denying ourselves the opportunity to explore life and its opportunities to learn, grow, and experience what it means to be human.

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