The emptiness of desire

Happiness is ‘unhealthy’ 

I’ve got all I wanted
But still I’m not satisfied

From “How Far” (Apocalyptica)

To find the thing that gives you the greatest joy. To have the one thing you have desired most. Isn’t it wonderful? Isn’t it wonderful to be fortunate to find someone whom which is your fundamental other? Or to achieve an object to which one has strived? Or to obtain a state of affairs which you, and perhaps your line, has hopefully desired for, for generations?

The fundamental tragedy, and apparent contradiction is this: what makes us happy, doesn’t make us happy. Or, perhaps to say again: The desire for happiness seems unhealthy upon the rational masses (yet what else can we do but seek what we want? or to desire what we long for?).

Historical considerations

Augustine one said that we find restlessness in all our pursuits but we find rest when we come to accept the love of God. Spinoza talks similar warm words towards the amor intellectis deii. To live a life of love and true satisfaction, according to the pre-reformation Christians, is an adherence to the manifoldness of God, to come to know His love. For Spinoza, by contrast to my former similarity I so depict; God is not a being who can love you back, but to Love ‘God’ is to seek to understand nature, and in doing so, one adopts a good natured attitude which moves towards the betterment of mankind and our own pursuit of joy. Spinoza also talks about the value of friendship in his pre-Ethics works.

Humean truth

Reason is a slave to the passions; I wish he was wrong, I try so hard to argue against it. Nothing in the dictum of reason can drive us to action. A proposition of reason like “1+1=2” can hardly be a genuine ground to our intentional action; I don’t think such a proposition has driven anyone to action! Rational maxims, or propositions from reason are inert to the direction of action.

Kant tries to go beyond this or work around this platitude by virtue of introducing a special causality that works extra to nature, that being the rational freedom of the will. Does it work? Lets just say for now, it doesn’t.

If maxims like ‘do not kill’, or ‘look over the infirm’ have no bearing on our action as rational propositions; what kind of objects do form suitable grounding for our actions; what things make us act? Desires.

The ‘iron cage’ of desire

It seems we are locked so securely in our desires, without even addressing the talk of rationality here, we seem to be following a rule-following schema which seems doomed to fail. I want x as the motivation for my action ceases to motivate me once I have x. Another desire will come forth, and even the most beautiful and joyous thing we desire; if we even come close to it, we lose something in ourselves when we become content and used to such beautiful joy.

While desire seems impossible to escape, so is joy. Yet to base our actions on desire and in particular, the subequent joy, is to be a futile and disappointing kind of life, constantly restless, seeking new highs…

But, if we accept as the default condition a constant denial of that which we desire the most; we may actually even appreciate it more when we get it. And we will not be corrupted by selfishness, possession, or even worse, the taking for granted of those who are the most important to us. That’s what I, Antisophie, fear the most. So in that way, I am happy with being alienated from that which I want the most, and working with the Areopagites instead.

To want something we deny ourselves is not as bad a torture compared to the disgust I would feel if I ever took my loves for granted.

[‘Quutamo’, by Apocalpytica]



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