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The Deepest Truth About Desire
We have an infinite capacity — and what we need is an infinite supply
Today I wrap up my series on desire. Several weeks ago, I began exploring my disagreeing desires, trying to uncover why I have so many mix-motives. Eventually, I discovered that desire is good, but trapped in vice. And if my desire is trapped in vice, then it can be liberated into virtue. In this final installment, I look at what ultimately stands behind desire and virtue – both our foundation and fulfillment. Thanks for reading. As always, I’d love to hear from you in the comments.
Have you noticed that when you gratify any of your desires, they repeat, they continue to resurface.
When you gratify your hunger, you get hungry again? Or when you share moments of deep intimacy, it’s not very long before you want that same kind of closeness again? Or when you create something of great beauty or inventiveness, don’t you want to wake up and try again?
As far as we can see, our desires are possible to gratify, but impossible to satisfy.
We have an infinite capacity — and what we need is an infinite supply.
And here’s the thing we’ve been orbiting around: desires point to something beyond us, to something that transcends our own human capacity, to something infinitely richer than ourselves.
As Simone Weil once said, “At the centre of the human heart, is the longing for an absolute good, a longing which is always there and is never appeased by any object in this world.”
In other words, only eternal life can satisfy human life.
Like Christ, we were meant to unite God’s kind of life and human life in a single existence.
And here, perhaps, is the deepest truth about the Incarnation: human life and divine life are perfectly compatible with each other.
We’re destined for union - we go together.
This, for me, is the testimony of desire, the great affirmation, the thing it’s been pointing to all our lives:
We were made for divine life.
But notice this, just because our desires are inherently good, and point toward an even greater good — a divine-like life of love — that doesn’t mean we automatically choose it.
We can, and do, choose poorly. We can misuse desire. And this is really what sin is, as St Basil the Great said:
"Sin is the misuse of powers given us by God to do good.”
In other words, sin is not a thing, but the misuse of good things. Namely, our desires.
To enter into that greater good, that divine life of virtuous love, we have to learn to use desire well. It requires effort on our part if we’re to bear fruit.
Simply put, we have to cultivate it.
And maybe that’s one of the most important lessons of the Garden of Eden: cultivation.
God created Adam and Eve inherently good, but also invited them to grow toward that greater good — the divine likeness (Gen 1:26). He gifted them with the inherent desires for it, but he didn’t hand it to them. Instead, he said, be fruitful and multiply (Gen 1:28), which was not just a call for the expansion of human life, but rather the expansion of divine life in human bodies.
By placing Adam and Eve in a garden, God offered the first family a training space, an outer environment that perfectly mirrored their inner one. He gave them tangible work that symbolized the inner work before them. That is, they were invited to cultivate physical fruit, while cultivating spiritual fruit at the same time.
Adam and Eve were designed to put flesh on what God is like. And our invitation is the same, to “become partakers of the divine nature (2 Pet 1:4).”
None of this is handed to us. We have to choose it. Not once, but over and over.
We have to cultivate it.
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