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The Persistence of Desire

(more notes from a larger work in progress)

We often think of desire as a sharp yearning, something filled with fire and passion, a thirst that must be quenched immediately. But desire often shows its face in sheer persistence. This is what mystic philosopher G. I. Gurdjieff called a “wish”. A wish is the continued return to the well, year after year. A wish follows the water back to source. A wish notices the small sparks when the come, and uses these to build a sustainable fire. That is desire in the long term, that is desire that incorporates into us – literally shifting our flesh and cells – to make us into human beings who are following desire.

Remember that want and need come together to form desire, or a strong internal wish. The want may seem to come and go, and need may cease to knaw so intently in our bellies, but we know desire remains because something always brings us back to the practice of desire. The practice of desire is paying attention to all the little ways we shape our lives to support the unfolding of the desire, or to avoid it at any cost because of our fear.

This weekend, I am with a group of writers on the beautiful Oregon Coast. These are all people who are so filled with desire they find time to write 500-1000 words every morning of the week, sandwiched in between walking the dog and dressing for work. They mail out story after story, and write novels when they are not doing that. They get published, or rejected, and they keep writing and mailing still. Nothing stops them. They are persistent in their relationship with desire – you can sense so clearly that want and need are present in them when they talk about their craft. Have they made it big? No. Some of them make a very decent living from writing, others hold down other jobs on top of their writing careers. They go to these workshops to learn how to help their careers become more vital, viable, and stable, and how to improve their craft over time. Then they go home and sit at their desks or kitchen tables and they write some more.

That is what it takes to sustain desire long term – the daily showing up. The great return.

Sometimes we miss desire because we are looking for the lightning bolt, and then one day we wake up and realize we have been following the ways and means of desire all along. We’ve been wanting the heady rush of infatuation, when what we really have is love. Our hearts are not always pounding, but they do tap out the rhythms of our lives. What do you keep returning to? Those of you who are dilettantes or wanderers, flitting from one thing to the next, can you sink deeply for a moment, and find a common thread? Those of you who feel like the fog has not lifted from the vast ocean of your desire, can you feel it there, beneath the surface of your thoughts and emotions? What keeps you seeking?

How do you shape yourself according to desire, and how does desire shape you?

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