Thoughts Inspired by Dollimore

Thoughts Inspired by Dollimore December 30, 2003

Some thoughts inspired by Dollimore’s book:

It would seem that desire is inherently tragic.

First, because desire arises from lack. We only desire what we do not yet have. But when our desires our satisfied, our lack is filled. When ALL our desires are satisfied, then all lack is filled, and we reach a static perfection. Which is death. Therefore, desire is always desire for death.

Second, as an alternative to the first reason, we might say that desires (which arise from lack) are never finally satisfied. When one desire is satisfied, then we immediately want something more, or want the same thing again and again. Because desire is never satisfied, we never reach satisfaction or fulfillment. Desire is always frustrated, and therefore our desires are always destined for tragic unfulfillment.

Thirdly, desire, since it is lack, does both things simultaneously. As fulfilled, it leads to death; unfulfilled, it leads to frustration. But desire is both fulfilled and unfulfilled, and therefore doubly tragic.

SED CONTRA: The Lord declares that He will give us the desire of our hearts, and that with Him is joy forevermore. Therefore, fulfillment of desire is not inherently tragic. Two reasons may be offered. Firstly, desire is multiple and not single. Desire for bread is not the same as desire for chocolate, and desire for fame is not the same as desire for death. Desire is shaped by its end, and therefore phenomenologically each desire has its own unique structure. Thus, though it may be that some desires vanish when desire is fulfilled, there may be other desires whose fulfillment increases desire. Since desire is not one thing, it is erroneous to suggest that all desire has a tragic structure.

Secondly, within a Christian framework, the aporia of desire is not that it leads both to tragic fulfillment and tragic unfulfillment. Rather: Since God is infinite and inexhaustible, the aporia of desire is that we can be both fully satisfied in Him and yet recognize that there is an infinite degree more satisfaction left to attain. So, there is both satisfaction and infinitely extended possibility of other satisfaction, but this is without any hint of “dissatisfaction.”

To the first argument: Desire may be lack, but desire is not a single thing, and desire may possibly arise from fullness rather than from lack. God desires the returning love of His creatures not because there is lack in Him but because He desires to share the fullness of His Triune life. So also, men and women may desire out of a fullness of being and life rather than lack. A desire for witness arises from the fullness of Christ and the Spirit, and a desire for another to share in that fullness. Because the argument depends on the definition of desire as lack, the argument falls when that definition is undermined. Further, in the Christian framework, perfection is not a static condition, either for God (since He is (n)ever at rest) or for man (since the more Godlike we become the more we image the One who is pure act). Therefore, perfection or the fulfillment of all desire is not stasis, but boundless dynamic self-gift.

To the second argument: This too depends on the definition of desire in terms of lack.

To the third argument: This is perhaps the aporia of desire in a non-Christian framework. In a Christian framework, desire is doubly comic: All wants are met, and yet there is ever again infinite satisfaction yet to be had.

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