Is desire essential to the human experience?

rolling stones

Just like The Rolling Stones, Tammy Potakh can’t always get what she wants, which made her wonder about the nature of desire. Here are her thoughts:

I often hear the words “you always want what you can’t have” and never really thought much about it until recently, where I wanted something (or perhaps, someone, in this case) who is entirely out of reach. It brought a few questions to my attention, mainly… WHY!? Why do we crave what is not really for us? What is it about the unattainable that makes it appear so attractive, appealing & desirable? Are we hardwired as humans to lust over a fantasy that we construct in our own minds? Or is it simply a socially-constructed phenomena that we can attribute to media & other influences re: what we “should” and “shouldn’t” have?

Temptation, lust, passion, dignity and self-worth are all concepts that come to mind when I think about “desire.” It’s almost an institution that has been highly romanticised by events such as Valentine’s Day & the ritual of honeymoons following weddings, etc. It is over-exposure to commercialised events as such, that further fuel & provoke us, as gluttonous individuals, to just want and want more until eventually we become obsessed with these desires and sooner or later, our lives revolve around our infinite quest to satisfy these wants. It’s purely exhausting!

Not only do we already live in an egocentric society where we are the centre of the universe but we are also now encouraged, if not pressured, to believe that we ARE the amount of income we earn per annum, we ARE the amount of yachts we own, we ARE the the rings on our hands and the shoes on our feet. And if we are stripped of all these said superficial things, then our ego is jeoporadized, along with our feelings of self-worth. Are we then nothing, if all of these objects and desires are removed from us? Are we only classified as humans because of the fact that we have desires and are willing to self-sacrifice and alter our own identity, in order to possess/obtain them?

I was reading Kojeve and a quote that caught my eye was “In the relationship between man and woman, for example, desire is human only if the one desires, not the body, but the desire of the other …. he wants to be ‘desired’ or ‘loved’ or rather ‘recognised’ in his own human value, in his reality as a human individual.” Here, Kojeve implies that man’s desire for a woman goes far beyond the purely sexual attraction. It’s much deeper, psychologically, as it delves into the emotional needs of the man. For a man to feel complete or “whole” as an individual, he must feel valued and important to someone else – he desires to be the desire of another being. Whilst this is often the ego that controls this desire, it is also innate. We NEED love, in order to become self-actualized beings. You hear about millions of neglected children who never develop into fully functioning adults, or in the extreme case, become criminals – all because they were robbed of essential love as younguns.

“His reality” is constructed of what he sees and believes is expected of him. Also, it’s his goals and what he strives for in life. So, if we don’t have goals and aspirations – does that then leave us desireless? Or to put it another way; people who live with a deep hole in their heart and have entirely given up on themselves – do they desire nothingness?

All in all, I find desire to be an essential component of the human experience. It is vital to strive to become the best version of who and what you are. However, I find it unhealthy to “desire to be someone’s desire.” Coming from personal experience, this intention can be possessive and blinding towards what’s really important, in terms of life-compassion.

Words by Tammy Potakh