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Desire: Pleasure, Passion, Purpose

Today I am pondering desire. Like grief and true-hearted praise, it is essential and sadly under-rated, and has been so for generations in the most of the West. Like shadow - the dark side of ourselves and all things - it is oft-maligned.

Desire can lead us to many things, from intimacy to addiction. Here I’d like to explore desire as the key to the unfolding of the human being, the catalyst for

· pleasure,

· passion, and

· purpose.

Let's start with pleasure.

Ah, pleasure! Another taboo, and a foundational facet of desire. Pleasure is seen as sinful or self-indulgent. Many of us see pleasure as a something that lures us away from what truly matters – such as hard work, heaven, or right living. But in truth is it part of our inner guidance system. Every biological being moves toward pleasure and away from pain, towards well-being and away from suffering, in order to survive and thrive. When we seek what pleases us, we move toward health, happiness and wholeness. And, simply put, we feel good, which has boundless merit on its own – truly!

Pleasure is inimical to the unfolding of the developing human being. From the cadence of her mother’s heartbeat, to the deliciousness of her milk, to the exhilaration of the first time to stand, to walk, to build a fire, to make love – pleasure leads us to those things which make us fully human, intimate with ourselves and the world around us.

Pleasure overlaps with passion.  The passion to master ourselves in relation to the world, so evident in witnessing a one year old’s determination to take those first steps, in a nine-year-old’s learning to canoe or make pizza dough, in an adolescent’s soulful performance art – drives us to pursue what matters most to us, what fires us up.

That both pleasure and passion are facets of desire is intuitively reasonable. But how about purpose? I propose that the desire to identify one’s purpose is a natural human longing. It is fueled by desire and it is thwarted when as a culture and within family life, we discourage children and youth from following their pleasure and their passion.

So puleeze, let us stop thwarting pleasure and passion in our young people and in each others.  Pleasure is not lazy, self-indulgent, or base.  Passion is not an "extra".  These are not only guideposts that lead us to joy (although that is great!). They lead us into doing what is effective and in the highest good for ourselves and our communities. . They are part of our inner guidance system that keep us safe and lead us to our destiny.

In my next blogpost, I'll talk a little about how can can teach and model to the next generation that pleasure matters, that pleasure is good, that pleasure is our birthright.   

How are you a way-shower for young people to lean into pleasure and passion?  What are your questions about how to encourage young people - in balanced ways - to pursue pleasure and passion, those things which make our heart beat faster and which carry us down the less-traveled road.  

Photo by Elisa Siebernik Photography