Have you ever asked yourself; why do you like what you like? The wealth you keep singing about, the body goals you won’t shut about, this thing you call happiness.. success.. Have you ever asked yourself, why the f*ck do I want these things in the first place? What do I want to do with them? Do I even really want them? If I were alone on earth, will I still pursue the same things? And assuming I fulfill all my desires in this life, then what? Is it even possible to satisfy all my desires? That’s what today’s post is about, let’s dig in..

The Dictionary defines desire as “a strong wish to have or do something.” It’s the want, the feeling that something will satisfy you, make you whole somehow. If only I made this amount of money, or clear these pimples, or have a bigger ass, or get 100k followers on my IG, desire is the “if only” part. The feeling that you are missing something which would potentially elevate the quality of your experience or life; something to fill the hole (emptiness) in you.

We are creatures of desire, literally born out of it. For example, you are an expression of the sexual desire that took place between your parents. They had to desire to have sex, then have it, then your big head was the result. In a sense, you are the physical manifestation of that horniness. Everything you see, everything you’ll ever hear is a manifestation (expression) of a desire(s). In fact, if you want to deeply understand someone, be keen on their desires. It’s the reason questions tell you more about a person than their answers. We are never free of desires, which means, everybody, at any moment, wants something. Train yourself to smell desire and you’ll have a better understanding of people, sometimes better than they know themselves since we are not conscious of most of our desires.

Philosophers panning from Plato to Arthur Schopenhauer, psychologists like Jacques Lacan, and the whole lot of stoics have extensively studied desire, each adding onto our understanding of it. Question is, can we escape desire? The question seems counter-intuitive since the desire to escape desire is itself a desire. As long as we’ve been alive, we’ve always had desire(s), our objects of desire change over time but the feeling persists. The philosopher Schopenhauer would go further as to say our whole body is a manifestation of desires. Your digestive system is a physical manifestation of hunger, your genitals representing sexual urges, you are simply a walking manifestation of desires.

Lacan, in his book “Desire and its Interpretation,” argues that the problem of unfulfillment is a factor of socialization. As a child you could express all your desires without filtering, but as you grew older the society taught you to suppress some of these desires (cut you to size if you will). He claims, it is this suppression (sometimes called castration) that planted the seed of dissatisfaction. Because despite having access to all your raw desires internally, you are only allowed to express the ones that are socially acceptable. As a result, you will always feel inadequate in one way or another. It’s why we have difficulty accepting and fully embracing who we are, this makes for a ground fertile of shame, inadequacy and a constant need to fit in; it is a recipe for depression.

He adds that, “man’s desire is the desire of the Other.” Which loosely means that, all we ever want is to be desired by others; deep down we just want attention. Think about it, when you desire someone, what you really want is for that person to desire you back, that’s the aim of your desire. The objects we desire are those that others desire or lack, in a sense, we want to have what others want (or lack) so we can be desired by them. This idea is similar to the paradox of the man in the car which goes something like this, “The paradox is that you believe that if you were the man in the car (or with the phone, or beautiful girl, or money) people would notice and admire you, but you believe this while ignoring the man in the car that you are right now admiring,” in other words, regardless of what you might think, no one is more impressed with your stuff than you are. Come back and read that again before you buy luxury items.

It’s Friday and I have a desire to grab a drink so let me summarize; Schopenhauer argued that Man can do what he wants, but man can’t want what he wants. In other words, the game is rigged son, what you find pleasurable and what you find painful come pre-decided; they are not of your own choosing. There is however a trick you can use. You can practice to be aware of your desires. Your desire to speak in a meeting, your desire to impress your friends, your desire to fit in. Once you become aware of them, then you can desire to control them, this way, you’ll be beating desire at it’s own game, this actually correlates with intelligence. I’ve embedded a video of the Marshmallow test so you can watch desire in action. One last important part, have a desire to buy me a drink sometime, I give very good free advice when drunk, good day.

About the author

Ken Juma

Thinker of thoughts, lover of life.. and death too.

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  • Indeed. To deeply understand someone, their desires tell quite a lot. We should be careful though to not lose it all in quest of feeding our desires- lest we will be stuck on the ‘if only’s for a long time

By Ken Juma

Ken Juma

Thinker of thoughts, lover of life.. and death too.

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