Desire -- it is that bubbly, brooding emotion that swims in your stomach... that yearning, burning thing inside each of us that causes nearly all human action. Is there anything that doesn’t stem from desire? Even the noblest intentions are exactly that – intentions. Things we desire.
The other day, my three year old asked, “Mommy, what makes bad guys bad?” I always try to answer her with honesty and accuracy. I said, “I think sometimes people want something so bad that it makes them bad.” This was a satisfactory answer for her and it opened up a new window of ideas for me. I got to thinking about the Garden of Eden and our cosmogonic ancestors Adam and Eve. Now whether or not you believe in their literal existence is not really of consequence here – but the story of how they were tossed out of Paradise is.
According to that old book of the beginning, a.k.a. Genesis, all was glory and sunshine in the Garden of Eden until the slippery serpent of temptation came slithering into the picture. Now remember, the tree of knowledge was not new to the garden… and neither was the shiny apple. So what happened? Desire. Who was the serpent? The dark side of The Force, the divine who had become ill, a demon, a deva, the devil. It was desire in the flesh – or in the scales to be more exact. And, when Eve gave into temptation… all hell broke loose.
Again, it’s not relevant here whether or not we take this story as literal or as a beautiful parable with an enormous message. It’s the moral of the story that is relevant. Our desires are the root of all evil. Not money, not sex, not drugs, not rock and roll – but our own desires. That old book we call Genesis isn’t the first book of the bible for no reason at all.
Now, that being said I should also state for the record that I am not Christian nor do I align myself with any religious tradition. My spirituality has some Buddhist/Vedic leanings and you are more likely to find me meditating under my wind-chimes than at church; however, that doesn’t mean that I don’t know "God." In fact, it just means that I leapt off the page of normalcy many moons ago because I just couldn’t digest the processed religion most churches would have you eat. Along this long and winding journey of mine, I’ve made many friends and, unfortunately, lost some too. That saddens me deeply because I desire in this life to know love and grow in my ability to feel organic compassion.
Which brings me back to desire. The Buddha taught that the greatest cause of human suffering is desire. He laid down four truths that together say: We can stop having that crappy feeling of angst inside of us if we practice letting go of our desires. He even gave a nice list of eight ways we can practice every day with things like unbiased, unslanted, authentic speech, actions and thoughts. I think the old guy was onto something. Isn’t it just too coincidental to be a coincidence that Buddha, who was born about 563 BCE (before common era and before Christ) has a message that is oh so very similar to the creation story of Christianity and Judaism? I think the Cosmos is trying to tell us something because this same story appears again and again throughout hundreds of cosmogonic myths as far back as Neolithic Mesopotamia, through ancient Greece and Rome, and right up into present day spiritual cognition. Our humanness – is defined by our fleshy desires.
We’ve been discussing these concepts in my writer's workshop, Journal Mavens. I call it the profanity of humanity. Our ability to feel passionately is what makes us people… it is also what separates us from the divine. We are of the flesh. We can’t help it. This house that we call a body is just where we live. These windows called eyes are the mechanism for sight and the lumpy mass inside our skull is what makes verbal langue possible. But our body is not who we are. We are the thing inside the fleshy house called a body. We are souls – eternal and beautiful… and without desire.
I don’t think that our pure soul-self desires. It does not yearn. It just is. The soul doesn’t feel passion – it IS passion… it is LOVE. Somewhere within the particles and energy is that thing most people call God. It is shining through us at all times and it doesn’t need anything.
We can’t help but have desires. We are human. We are incarnate. We are of the flesh. Only in those fleeting moments when we quiet the mind can we see that we already have everything we need. It is then, when our breath is effortlessly steady, that we become awake. It is then, with a conscious mind that we turn away from the apple without struggle.