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Chronicling passions that change the world, for good and ill

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Without doubt, the intellect remains behind and, looking at things from the outside, distinguishes two solitary desires that are basically ignorant of one another. We only know our own sensations, not those of the other. Let us say that the distinction of the intellect is so clearly contrary to the operation that it would paralyze the latter's movement if it were compelled to fade from awareness.

Objects Of Desire | History | Smithsonian

But the intellect is not wrong merely because the illusion denounced is efficacious, because it works and no purpose would be served by depriving the deluded partners of their contentment. It is wrong in that this is not an illusion. To be sure, illusion is always possible in any domain whatever. We thus fool ourselves if some incomplete perception is interpreted by us as being that of a bottle: it is not a bottle; a simple reflection gave me the impression it was, and I thought I was going to touch it.

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But the example proves nothing. For an error of this kind is verifiable and other times it is indeed a bottle that my hand grasps.

It is true that a bottle in the hand, a correct proof, is something certain, solid. Whereas, in the most favorable case, the possibility of attaining the desire or the existence of the other and not just its external signs is generally disputed.

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Yet an infant is not able, the first time at least, to deduce the presence of another, internally similar to it, from external signs. On the contrary, it can finally infer a presence on the basis of external signs only after having learned to associated the signs with that presence, which it must first have recognised in a total contact, without any prior analysis. It is not so easy to isolate this contact - an internal thing on both sides - when we are talking about the embrace of adults: it occurs under conditions in which the differentiated sensations and the complex associations can never be set aside as they are for the very young child.

We are always entitled to adopt the reasoning of science: this complex of definable sensations is associated by the subject with a belief in the desire of his partner. Possibly so. But it would be futile, in my opinion, to advance further on the path of isolation. This goes without saying: we will never find in this way an isolable moment in which it will be certain that these conventionally isolated elements are not sufficient.

Better to take the opposite approach, focusing on the total appearance manifested in the embrace. This is because in the embrace everything is revealed anew, everything appears in a new way, and we have every reason from the start for denying the interest, and even the possibility, of abstract mental operations that would follow this unfolding.

Besides, no one has attempted these operations Who would presume to delineate from ponderous analyses what appeared to him at that moment? This appearance might even be defined by showing that it cannot be grasped through treatises like those published in the journals of psychology. What strikes one from the first is a "recession" of discernible elements, a kind of drowning in which there is nothing drowned nor any depth of water that would drown. It would be easy to say to the contrary: not at all These impressions do in fact remain, despite the feeling of being drowned to which I refer.

This feeling is so strange that, as a rule, one gives up the idea of describing it. Actually, we have only one way to do so. When we describe a state we ordinarily do this by singling out aspects that distinguish it, whereas we merely have to say:. It seems to me that the totality of what is the universe swallows me physically , and if it swallows me, or since it swallows me, I can't distinguish myself from it; nothing remains, except this or that, which are less meaningful than this nothing. In a sense it is unbearable and I seem to be dying.

It is at this cost, no doubt, that I am no longer myself, but an infinity in which I am lost No doubt this is not entirely true; in fact, on the contrary, never have I been closer to the one who This too is quite strange: she is no longer the one who prepared meals, washed herself, or bought small articles. She is vast, she is distant like that darkness in which she has trouble breathing, and she is so truly the vastness of the universe in her cries, her silences are so truly the emptiness of death, that I embrace her inasmuch as anguish and fever throw me into a place of death, which is the absence of bounds to the universe.

But between her and me there is a kind of appeasement which, denoting rebellion and apathy at the same time, eliminates the distance that separated us from each other, and the one that separated us both from the universe. It is painful to dwell on the inadequacy of a description, necessarily awkward and literary, whose final meaning refers to the denial of any distinct meaning. This initial experience is almost never matched again, yet the desire for the drug increases with use, triggering a desperate and futile pursuit for more of that elusive pleasure.

How can that be? Desire is driven by the release of dopamine, a chemical transmitter in the brain that prepares the mind and body for action. Like cocaine, which sets off a powerful dopamine rush, this release gives us a sense of energy and power, enabling us to assert ourselves with others and to strive for the objects of our desire — be they food, weapons or a sexual partner. Meanwhile, pleasure neurones depend on endorphins. These tiny molecules secreted by the brain have an effect similar to opium, inducing a powerful feeling of calm and serenity, a sense of satisfaction and a state devoid of desire that normally occurs when desire is sated.

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All this is thrown out of kilter when artificial stimulants upset the natural sequence between the two systems. Drugs, pornography, cigarettes and even ice-cream produce an immediate rush, by stimulating the pleasure system, that is out of proportion to any effort made to obtain them. In nature, such rewards are obtained only after considerable expenditures of mental and physical energy. This mismatch creates the conditions for craving — a state in which desire can keep increasing, even while pleasure steadily decreases.


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Emotional stability For the past 2, years, Buddhism has stressed the importance of maintaining harmony between desire and contentment. Desire is positive when it is under control and the object we desire is within our reach. When this is the case, desire becomes a source of energy and not a negative or destructive force. In meditation, harmony is established by breathing.