Our Desires Are Not Who We Are
On human desire, external authority, an the anti-mimetic act of obedience
Our desires are not our identity. Believing that they are — believing that if we desire something that it is therefore “who we are” — is a sickness of modernity that I believe stems from a false notion of freedom.
I have wanted many things in my life that I believed at the time were good, but which left me completely miserable once I had them. (It’s enough to look at pictures of myself in high school to see my folly…)
So I am extraordinarily grateful that I am not my past desires; and I am especially grateful that the people who cared about me the most (my parents) took my desires seriously, yet never identified me completely with them.
Desires are a signpost. They tell me something about myself and the world around me. It’s tragic to mistake the sign for the thing itself. That’s part of the reason why — among many other things — it’s so concerning to me that millions of young children today are not only being told that their desires are who they are — they are even being encouraged to make irrevocable choices based on them.
How did we get here?
Everything in our culture is built around the idea of the Sovereign, Imperial Self — to the point that most people are willing to bend reality around their ‘desires.
We rebel strongly against any notion of external authority that would require us to listen and respond to an Order that we feel is foreign to the Disorder of our unhealthy (and often highly mimetic) desires.
To put the problem another way: either the world must conform to my desires, or there is a created order to which my desires are able to respond.
But there is a further distinction to make: this created order, if it exists, can be perceived as good, bad, or neutral. If it’s neutral — or even worse, if it’s bad — then why should we conform our desires to it? Why bring a child into this world if it’s a cruel, inhospitable place? There would be no reason to do so.