Desire: The Energy of Life Itself

Father James Martin's (S.J.) The Jesuit Guide to Almost Everything provides some interesting perspectives and insights into the spiritual life.  In the excerpt posted below, taken from another writer on Jesuit spirituality, Martin highlights the importance of desire in the spiritual life.

from The Jesuit Guide to Almost Everything
Father James Martin, S.J.

The Energy of Life Itself

We tend to think that if we desire something, it is probably something we ought not to want or to have. But think about it: without desire we would never get up in the morning. We would never have ventured beyond the front door. We would never have read a book or learned something new. No desire means no life, no growth, no change. Desire is what makes two people create a third person. Desire is what makes crocuses push up through the late-winter soil. Desire is energy, the energy of creativity, the energy of life itself. So let's not be too hard on desire.

--Margaret Silf, Wise Choices

While we can note the wild overstatement regarding crocuses and imputing desire; however, the essence of the statement seems true.  Desire is like a compass pointing home--it shows us the direction, but it is not the end in itself, because desire, like every aspect of human life, can be or become disordered.  As a society our desire for leisure, sexual and material satisfaction, wealth, and power is disordered.  These are temporal goods, good for what they can do here and now, and not to be despised because of what they are.  But our desire for them is easily distorted--they become a substitute end--a means of filling the emptiness we would otherwise feel.  The truth is, and we all know it, that none of these things ever really satisfy.

Father Martin makes this point a little further along:

Desire is a primary way that God leads people to discover who they are and what they are meant to do. On the most obvious level, a man and a woman feel physical, emotional, and spiritual desire for each other, and in this way discover their vocations to be married. A person feels an attraction to being a doctor or a lawyer or a teacher, and so discovers his or her vocation. Desires help us find our way. But we first have to know them.

One interesting aspect of this book is that while written from a definite Catholic Christian perspective, the Author addresses people of all faiths and no faith.

Maybe you're surprised by the notion that everyone has an innate desire for God. If you're an agnostic, you might believe that intellectually but haven't experienced it yourself. If you're an atheist you might flat-out disbelieve it.

So, for the disbelieving, the doubtful, and the curious (and everyone else, for that matter) let's turn to how these holy desires manifest themselves in everyday life. What do they look like. What do they feel like? How can you become aware of your desires for God?

Informative, insightful, and occasionally quite funny, the book has much to offer those who are looking for a deeper insight into spiritual experience--whether or not they experience it or desire to experience it for themselves. 


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