As I rose up on the escalator out of the basement of Sears department store downtown tonight my eyes zeroed in on a big sign atop a pillar dripping with Christmas decorations. “What do you wish for?” it asked.
I wish for world peace.
I wish for all cancer to go away and stop hurting people.
I wish for common kindness to be commonplace.
Think I could pick those things up at Sears on my way through this evening? Probably Sears wishes that I’d wish for something like a new pair of slippers, some perfume, or a toaster oven.
We are getting the first tastes right now of a season that will play wildly with a powerful human feeling – desire. Desire is an interesting thing, it can just as easily stir us into action as freeze us in place. Desire can spur us to great things, if we follow our desire.
Now you might be thinking “yes, but desire can lead us into bad behavior too”, and this idea of desire may be the one you’re most familiar with, but desire doesn’t have to take us that way. In the Christian tradition we could say that “sin” is in fact misplaced desire. A desire for deep relationship could lead a person through a series of perceived intimate relationships that are not in fact quality deep relations. A desire for belonging can prevent a person from being their true self when they fear their community may reject that true self.
Also, when what we desire seems too big and too difficult to strive for, we can sometimes be paralyzed into non-action. “Why do I not do the thing I want to do?” says the Apostle Paul in a letter to his followers. It’s a question we all face in our lives. We most often know what it is we could do to follow our desires for the flourishing of people and planet, what we could do to make a difference, so why don’t we do those things?
Does desire maybe strike again here? Our desire for safety or comfort or any one of a number of conflicting desires. These are noble desires, but when they get in the way of what we could be doing, they become less noble.
And so as the season of material desire comes upon us, let’s also remember our less tangible desires, the ones that, if we followed them, might lead us into unknown territory, but the ones which, in the end, are the only ones that truly give us a feeling of desire being fulfilled when we pursue them with our whole heart.