The battle of desire is not something that just takes place within us or even between us. It is also taking place against us, all the time. Our desire is under nearly constant attack. “We come into the world longing,” says Gil Bailie, “for we know not what. We are desire. And desire is good, for it’s what takes us to God. But our desire is not hard-wired to God.” So we look to others to teach us what to desire. We are intensely imitative creatures, as Aristotle pointed out. It is how we learn language; it is how we master just about anything in life. It is also how we come to seize upon the objects of our desire. We all know this, though we don’t like to admit it.

One example should suffice. I was at a garage sale, looking for some tools. There was a table saw at a wonderful price. Another fellow was sort of browsing around, standing in front of the saw but not seeming particularly interested. I opened my mouth and made the fatal error: “Wow, that’s a great price on that saw.” You know what happened next. Immediately, his nonchalance became intense interest, and since he was there before me, he drove off with a table saw that five minutes earlier he couldn’t have given two hoots about.

The constant effort to arouse our desire and capture it can be described only as an assault. From the time we get up to the time we go to bed, we are inundated with one underlying message: it can be done. The life you are longing for can be achieved. Only buy this product, see this movie, drive this car, take this vacation, join this gym, what have you. The only disagreement is over the means, but everyone agrees on the end: we can find life now.

 

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