Friday, August 06, 2010

desire: coveting

The following is a repost from my friend Sean's deceased blog Bombing Number Ten. It was once featured on my sidebar under "recent links & discoveries", so some of you may have already read it. If it has a flaw it's that perhaps too much blame is placed on our culture and too little on the responsibility of the individual. Or maybe the responsibility is implied and the monumental struggle required in order to break free is what leads to the feeling of helplessness. Regardless, it's a wonderful piece of writing.

But first, a quote:

"Consider freedom. It can’t simply be given to someone. We are not born free. We have to achieve it. We have to struggle for it – against a thousand alien entanglements. We are up to our eyeballs in clichés, conventions, received ideas, provincialisms, bumper-sticker substitutes for thought. It’s hard to break free of all that. And it takes more than effort and will-power. It takes intelligence, knowledge, sensitivity, awareness. You can’t just will yourself free. That’s what most Americans don’t seem to understand and the political and corporate marketers have no intention of telling them. Americans want the easy, know-nothing path to emotional and intellectual freedom. “Tell me who to be. Tell me what to think. Tell me how to feel. Tell me what to buy.” That’s the context within which the Hollywood [and corporate] selling of meanings and emotions and the public’s willingness to buy them has to be understood." (source)

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Driving to the grocery store with my roommates last night we passed by one of the (many) new housing developments boasting luxury single family homes. It was dark and many of the homes had soft accent lights installed on their decks which highlighted them in a way which was not yet grandstanding. I was struck by an overwhelming longing to own such a place - a desire to own a home of my own with a beautiful deck perfect for entertaining or for writing or reading on late summer nights. A place where I could be married to a beautiful woman who would eventually bear our beautiful, if sardonic, children into a world where we could raise them to be the happiest, most giving people we could. I thought of my friends, many of whom have taken that path, and I was overcome by a desire to abandon the walls of thought that have kept me from taking it myself.

And then I thought about the many, myriad things which I long for in my heart.

In my mind my home, my eventual, proto-mythic home (for which I am selling the very best years of my life), is beautiful. Elegant. Posh. With stone and tile flooring in some rooms, like the kitchen and bath, and rare, hard woods in others like the dining and living rooms. The kitchen, as I've said in other venues, would be stocked with Wusthof knives and Le Creuset cookware - brands I own and adore - and feature at least two cooking surfaces and an absurdly large island. I love cooking. My kitchen would reflect this. It would also reflect the heavy, old world European styles with which I self-identify. Intricate woodwork, silver. Aged things from the Schwarzwald and Nürnberg. I would drive an Audi RS6 Avant - a car representing the culmination of August Horch's lifelong search for perfection. In truth, I've often thought that I would enjoy owning a Horch - one of the absolutely stunning 853's, probably - as a garaged and trailered show car. I love cars. My garage would reflect this.

Prior to going to the grocery store I'd spent some time looking through random blogs. One of them contained amazing pictures of a young couple, very much in love. The pictures managed to capture that fact perfectly with no posturing, and I was at once glad for them but also envious of what they had. The girl was beautiful and her prose, while lacking, showed energy and a lust for life that I frankly lack. Like most of us I have preset ideas about what I would expect the love of my life to look and be like and what our relationship would be like. I want to have a relationship with someone who is my intellectual equal or better - someone to pluck my wreath if you will. In my mind she's a tall girl, with blonde hair, and not very thin: something out of the Cure's Pictures of You. "Bigger, and brighter, and whiter than snow." She'd be happy, and a little razor-witted, and in love with food and at least open to car shows. I love being loved. My relationship would reflect this.

But there's the rub: looking and wanting, forming expectations, and desire. The happiest moments of my life, and probably of anyone's, have come to me as complete surprises and certainly not, as we all know, as the result of things. (How can one love a thing or an action? I would hate to think that my God feels the same emotion for me as I feel toward cooking.)

I own a Mk5 VW GTI and a 1989 VW Fox. I bought the Mk5 because I viewed it - like the RS6 - as the culmination of a long and worthy struggle. Volkswagen's return to its roots with a simple, fast GTI that didn't take aim at BMW or even the Mustang (as its progenitor had), but simply aimed to be an amazing car. Despite its weight it is. I've driven much faster cars, and lighter cars, but few have had the connection with the road that the GTI has. The Mk5 was my dream car from the moment it came out, at least in terms of cars I could ever afford. But now while driving it I often find myself gazing longingly at Audi S3s, BMW 3-series, and even Honda Fits. Similarly, the Fox started out as a simple desire to have a car to work on and understand. A little project. But it soon ballooned into an all-out, tear down project which had to have the best of everything and for which no expense was spared. I think I can claim, with the exception of some Audi Foxes, that I have spent more than anyone in North America on my Fox, and it still isn't done. And I still regret not doing more - spending more - to enhance it further. Solid lifter head, higher duration cam, custom, high compression pistons. I'm not completely sure I could tell you why. At all. I know that none of it has made me particularly happy, not even in the way that preparing a well-cooked meal for others has.

I've spent more of my high-school and onward years in serious relationships than not, and every woman I've ever dated seriously has been a beautiful person entirely deserving of someone better than myself. None of them were tall, none of them were blonde, and none of them had any interest whatsoever in car shows. They have, however, made me happy.

You'd think I'd learn from these things. You would think that, eventually, I would realize that the happiness in my life has never been a result of the images I've created of my future or the things that fill those images. Those images, those things in them and the longing therein, are all, instead, false hopes for a future that is quickly dying - for familiar reasons - for all of us. Hopes created to keep me working toward them, and therefore working. Desires created artificially, by myself but at the behest of my culture, to fill a void in my life. A void where happiness is meant to live. A void where true human community is meant to live.

I'll put it simply: This culture is a disease. It has corrupted everything good and pure about living in this world - thrown it all away in exchange for a toxic mockery of real humanity. All the Wusthof knives and glimmering, Nordic girls in the world will never change that. If that seems like a controversial statement, consider that I live like a king compared to the majority of the world, and I still want ever more.

And as long as I accept this system, I always will.

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