Friday, March 19, 2010

The Stimulation of Lust

Most people think of lust only in a sexual context, but I think that’s too narrow of a definition. A better one, I think, is wanting more of what you find stimulating to the point that most people would feel overwhelmed and say “too much.”

When I think back to when I was a teenager – and to some degree I am still like this today – the one phrase I always remembering thinking is, “I want more of this.” I tell people those years were a combination of “Animal House” and “American Graffiti.”

On weekends I would not only come in a 3 a.m., sometimes I’d come in when the sun was rising. I belonged to the party group at school. I used to wonder why all the kids didn’t belong to it.

Drinking, drugs (only soft ones), girls, cruising, partying…I did it so much I realized years later many people would have said “too much.” Drinking and dancing and going home and throwing up? Yeah, probably a little too much.

I was hanging out in bars when I was 15 years old.

We had minibikes, a Styrofoam sailboat, horses, a little lake. We had a huge tractor tire inner-tube a bunch of us would stand on in the lake and bounce it up and down so it would tip over and the rest would fall over on one person. I ended up near the bottom of the lake once with people kicking me in the head.

It was a great time, and I took in all I could. Years later, watching kids go to raves and use Ecstasy, I knew exactly why they did it. It was that lust for experience and stimulation.

Yet, for all that, I wasn’t a glutton. Gluttons won’t stop. I did stop when I was satisfied. What I did, I only did on weekends. The rest of the week I was fine. A glutton won’t stop even during the week. For them, they want the stimulation to never stop.

When I didn’t have what I wanted on weekends, I would often feel bored, restless, depressed and empty. That is the opposite side of stimulation, pleasure and sensation.

Lust can be satisfied for a while, but a glutton, never. Gluttons are also lustful, but it can’t be satisfied, because they have breadth but no depth. With the “lust” I felt there was breadth and some depth, which is why the satisfaction on weekends held me through the week.

When a person is consumed by both lust and gluttony that, I think, is a big problem. They can never be satisfied.

Both lust and gluttony have traditionally been considered sins. The word “sin” though, comes from the word “harmartia,” which comes from archery and means “to miss the mark.” There is no sense of moral condemnation to it.

Both lust and gluttony are based on physical sensation. There is nothing wrong with either of them as long as you don’t go too far with them. What turns them into something better – being back “on the mark” – is when deep, permanent feeling is added to them.

The Buddha, the ancient Greeks, even Freud in his 60s, noticed that those who devote their lives to physical sensation and pleasure become degraded. Physical sensation – lust and gluttony – go up and down, up and down. Satiety to desire to satiety. When you don’t have it – boredom, depression, restlessness, emptiness.

All claimed what put people back on the mark was the addition of love, what the Greeks called Eros (which, contrary to common misperceptions) is not about sex but the desire for union.

Those teenage years for me were up and down, up and down, but that cycle was a pretty long one that went from weekend to weekend. I’ve met people whose cycle went from one day to the next. They ended up being a mess every time, because, for one thing, they were very easily bored.

This knowledge about human nature is not taught in schools, if indeed it ever was. It’s not even taught in church, unless they get it completely wrong and speak of lust as sex and gluttony as stuffing yourself. Even many parents, if not most, don’t understand it.

People have to figure these things out on their own. Sometimes, they end up in therapy, which these days is apparently a very common thing.

What I concluded many years ago there is a very small minority of thoughtful people who think about the big questions. It’s been like this for thousands of years. I wouldn’t go so far as to call them “wise,” just thoughtful. They are the ones who advance society, if people will listen.

After all, look at what one man, Jesus, did to the world. And by the way, here was a man who drank wine and went to parties, so obviously he thought nothing wrong with stimulation and pleasure and sensation.

Not surprisingly, these thoughtful people keep coming to the same conclusions over and over, e.g. pleasure goes up and up, and down, ultimately never satisfies, and in the long run degrades the person who devotes his or her life to it. That’s what lust and gluttony, without the addition of Eros, will always do to people.

No comments: