Desire is not just another impulse. It is a motor that sets in motion all psychic life. It is the function of a principle, defined by philosopher Ernst Bloch as the hope principle. By its nature, it knows no limits, as Aristotle and Freud already observed. The psyche not only desires this or that, it desires the totality. It does not desire the fullness of man, it seeks the superman, as Nietzsche explained, that which infinitely surpasses the human.
Desire makes existence dramatic, and sometimes tragic. But also, when realized, it produces a happiness without equal. We are always seeking the object which would fulfill our infinite desire, and fail to find it in the realm of everyday experience. In the everyday, we only find finites. When the human being identifies a finite reality as the infinite object it seeks, a profound disillusionment results. Can the beloved person, a very desired profession, be the dream? A moment comes, and often very quickly, when a fundamental dissatisfaction is perceived and the desire for something more is felt.
How does one escape the impasse caused by infinite desire? By fluttering from one object to another, without ever finding repose? We must start to seriously seek the true object of our desire. I respond as follows: it is the Being and not the entity, the Whole and not the part, the Infinite and not the finite. After so much traveling, the human being is left with the cor inquietum (restless heart) experience of Saint Augustine: Late I loved you, oh Beauty so ancient and so new. Late I loved you. My restless heart will not rest until it rests in You. Only the Infinite Being can fulfill the infinite desire of the human being, and let him rest.
Desire involves powerful volcanic energies. How can one handle them? Above all, it is about welcoming the condition of desire, without moralizing. Passions push the human being in all directions. Some passions push towards generosity, others to egocentrism. To integrate such energies without repressing them requires caring, and more than a few renunciations.
The psyche is called upon to build a personal synthesis, that is the search of equilibrium of all interior energies. Neither to be victimized by an obsession for a specific desire, as for example, sexuality, nor to repress it. as if it were possible to debilitate its vigor. What is important is to integrate it as expression of affection, of love and of aesthetics, and watch it carefully, because we are dealing with a vital energy that cannot be fully controlled by reason, but through symbolic means of sublimation and redirection to other humanitarian purposes. Each person must learn how to renounce, in the sense of realizing an ascetic act that liberates one from dependencies, and creates an inner freedom, one of the most valuable gifts.
Another way of dealing with infinite desire is by taking precautions, that help us avoid the traps of the very human vulnerability. We are neither omnipotent, nor gods who cannot be touched by failure. We can find ourselves weak and, sometimes, cowards. But we must take precautions against situations that could make us fall and lose the Center.
C.G.Jung offers us perhaps an inspiring key, with his proposal of building a process of individuation along life’s trajectory. This process has a holistic dimension: accept without fear and with humility all the pulsations, images, archetypes, lights and shadows. Listen to the roar of the beasts that inhabit it, but also to the enchanting song of the thrush. How can one create an interior unity, resulting in the equilibrium of our desires, the experience of freedom and the joy of living?
Jung suggests that everyone strive to create a strong Center, a unifying Self that would function as the sun does in the solar system. The sun attracts all the planets around it. Something similar must occur with the psyche: one must nourish a personal Center that integrates everything, with reflection and internalizing, and not last, by nourishing the Sacred and the Spiritual. It is not uncommon that religion, as an institution, cuts off our spiritual life, with an excess of doctrines and too rigid moral norms. But religion as spirituality performs a fundamental function in the process of individuation. Religion has the function of linking and re-linking the person with his Center, with all things, with the universe, with the original Source of all beings, giving it a sense of belonging.
The lack of integration of the energy of desire manifests itself through the rupture of social relations, the murderous violence in the schools, or in the murders of the Blacks, the poor and homosexuals.
Consequently, learning to handle the forces of desire implies a concern for social health. A humanistic, ethical and civic education must not neglect educating the desire. The greatest obstacle lies in the very logic of the prevalent system, centered in the desire to have, not thinking of the civilizing values of gentleness, good treatment and respect for the person. To the contrary, the mass media extol individual desire and violence as the means of solving human conflicts.
Globalization as a human phenomenon will force us to moderate personal desires for the benefit of the collective ones, thus making human coexistence more equilibrated and friendly.