Prisoner Of Desires
Halun Vallassa - Onnellisuutta etsimässä
The desires we have might not even be our own, they can be a reflection of desires, needs, and dreams of another person or even society. We all desire things and people and more things, but would we be endlessly happy if we got all our desires, even bad or dangerous ones? I read a book by Timo Airaksinen, called Halun Vallassa, which talks about the desires we have, how they get started, and what are those bad desires that are better not coming true.
Desires are the product of imagination, says Airaksinen in the book. If humans would not be able to imagine things, there would not be desires. There actually would not be anything at all because everything created by humans begins as something in our heads. We’re able to want something because we can imagine it. After imagining it, we evaluate it, start to hope for getting it, and finally turning into actions to achieve our desire. We can also imagine things that another person is feeling, dreaming, or what is happening to them. This is what you call stepping into other’s shoes.
As an example, Airaksinen uses the ancient Greece legend about Ikaros. The actions of Ikaros show very well the pattern of desires. First, he imagines himself flying, second, he starts to dream about it and that dream turns into hope when he realizes there is a chance to make it true. He starts to think that he really is going to fly so now it’s an intention that drives his choices and actions towards the goal. He makes a plan and then executes it. When he finally gets up in the air, he feels excited and his desire has been fulfilled. Even though his desire of flying came true, he didn’t stop there. It wasn’t enough for him and he kept going higher and higher until he went too close to the sun and ended up dying because the heat broke his wings. This shows us that even though our desires are being filled, it doesn’t mean we are satisfied with them. We might keep wanting more because our desires keep changing as time goes on and we get more things.
The desire we have has always reluctant because all powers have their counterforce. If our desires wouldn’t have reluctance the world would be insane. We’d do whatever without any second thought of it. We need to evaluate our desires to conclude whether or not they are worth pursuing. Sometimes our desires can be dangerous or harmful and that is why having reluctance connected to your desires is healthy and normal. If you would just pursue all your desires without second-guessing them at all you might end up hurting someone, maybe even yourself.
We might have desires that are harmful to ourselves and have no logical explanation behind it. When we hurt ourselves, we give a reason and explanation of why we’re doing it. A possibility is that at the moment you believe your reasoning and afterward, you don’t understand it anymore. Some of our reasons might make sense to us and not the people around us. Self-destructive desires are the ultimate reason why it’s good that our desires have reluctance too. Without that reluctance, we’d hurt ourselves without thinking twice.
What Airaksinen means when he talks about dangerous or harmful desires are the violent, criminal, and selfish desires we might have. It’s hard to explain to ourselves why we have those and why we’d want those things, and why those desires should not be judged. As an example, Airaksinen uses a situation where we resort to violence in a situation because otherwise, someone else might hurt us. We know violence is wrong but, at this moment, we want to hurt that person that threatens our life. We explain to ourselves that what he is doing is wrong but us resorting to violence, in this case, is okay because we are protecting ourselves from this other person. Most of the time people resort to violence it’s in the heat of a moment kind of thing, not really thought through. An example of this would be hitting someone because we got angry and don’t really have the time to evaluate our desire to hurt another person before we already go through with it.
There are times when we have violent desires that we actually evaluate, think about, and decide to pursue. It is very hard to explain why we end up with an explanation strong enough to justify our upcoming actions. This is why bad desires often are covered with self-deception and anxiety. It’s all about telling stories to ourselves about the situation. We come up with a story of how things go, we come up with a backstory that explains why we’re about to fulfill our bad desires and what we’ll get out of pursuing them. We change the story about our desire when it comes to bad desires to match it reasonably with an explanation that we can accept. There is always the story behind it, we have a motive and a reason why. For example, gang members often say they are standing up for their honor that the other gang’s member insulted. In this example, honor is the motive and the fact that we were insulted is the reasoning why we are allowed to go through with our bad and most likely violent desire.
Often, when we fulfill our bad desires, we explain to ourselves that we’re the victim here, even though from a perspective of reasoning, you would not be the victim in the first place. We tell ourselves we’re not the attacker. Let’s think about a man hitting her cheating wife. He tells himself what he is doing is okay, because he is the victim of disloyalty. To a normally reasonable person, this explanation doesn’t fall through, but if the situation is right and we’re not in our right mind, we just might accept it.
Selfish desires can be violent in nature, but also nonviolent. To explain these desires, we need to modify our story of desire completely and tell it to ourselves so many times we start to believe it to be true. Airaksinen gave an example of a person who would collect money for poor children but end up keeping it to themselves. We feel anxious about this idea but excited at the same time. It’s truly selfish to desire to have that money all to ourselves and not care about those poor children. It’s morally wrong and that is why we need to explain it multiple times before we believe we can do it.
What I found most interesting in the book was the realization that even wanting to be free of our desires is a desire in itself. For forever we’re tried to get rid of them in different ways. There are differences on what desires should we get rid of; some religions state that desires are from the devil and should be fought against, some societies state that some desires are good, and some are bad and how this division is made is up to people living in that society. Some of us end up battling against certain desires we find bad or wrong and it can be very ordinary things in our ordinary life. We desire a man that is not our husband, so we fight against our desire. Do we win or lose this battle is up to us and it’s normal to second guess our desires sometimes as mentioned earlier.
But some people or groups try to get rid of all desires. A very unhealthy example in the book was St. Birgitta who is being worshipped by many. She’d torment herself by pouring burning wax on her hand and wearing a knotted string around her waist to be scratched painfully to get rid of her desires. I find it very interesting that why this fanatic woman is still being idolized so much. What I want to stress about her situation is that she was so desperate to fight her desires that she actually created a desire bigger than any other: a desire free from desires.
Regarding desires, in the beginning, I asked a couple of questions and the last one without an answer is would we be endlessly happy if all our desires come true? When thinking about St. Birgitta would she have been truly happy if her desire free desire came true or would that even be possible, that I have no answer to? Important to note is that our desires make us happy even though they don’t come true because the desired story in itself makes us happy. Just the thought of our desire makes us happy in some way. It’s also very hard for another person to evaluate has someone else’s desire being fulfilled or not, because we look at the world so differently. Even though our desire didn’t come true exactly the way we imagined, we might still be happy with the result. Sometimes it might be even better than our desire doesn’t come true at all but just makes us happy in our heads.
If all our desires would come true, we would probably not be endlessly happy, because our desires evolve all the time. When we get something, we want something more and when we have it all, we think less would be better.
In the end, life is a journey and it’s not about finding ultimate happiness, but about enjoying the moments of happiness. Remember that getting rid of your desires is basically impossible because a desire to get rid of desires is also a desire in itself, so instead of fighting your desires, accept the fact that you are prisoned by them. So enjoy that story of desire making you happy and if it ends up coming true and making you even more happy, good for you.
Written by: Emilia Parikka