David McCullough tells a story about the portrait artist, John Singer Sargent when he was at the White House trying to get an audience with Theodore Roosevelt. Sargent had been wanting to paint the president, but Mr. Roosevelt was a hard guy to pin down. One morning when Sargent was waiting for an opportunity he saw the President coming dow the stairs from the upper chambers of the White House. Sargent took the opportunity to ask the President when it might be a good time for him to paint his portrait. Mr. Roosevelt answered, “right now would be fine.” And john Singer Sargent painted him right there with his hand on the newel post and it became on of the finest capturings of a president in a casual pose.
What was important about that for both Sargent and Roosevelt was the immediacy of the moment, the actual capturing of a moment in time, seizing the day, and in that instant memorializing it for posterity. Although we may not in our own individual lives aspire to the level of authority that either of those men possessed in their respective occupations; nonetheless, we each in our individual way can aspire to our own excellence
There is a world of difference between aspiring to excellence and pursuing perfection. The former is possible and noble, the later is arrogant and not attainable. Furthermore, from one perspective we are allowing the experience of life to be channeled through us and in the second example we are suffocated by a mandate.
When I set out to write an article or an essay, or if I set out to study some subject matter in water color or pen and ink, I am not at the moment of beginning the pursuit at all concerned with the outcome of the project. Outcome is not even on the radar. The pursuit is the process. The desire that I have to study or to compose is pure desire. The pursuit is pleasure not results. I certainly can become happy, delighted and even enthusiastic about the outcome, but it was not about that while the process was occurring.
I found myself, recently explaining to some one that listening to our desire, our deep libidinal wishes and drives was actually what was meant in theological terms as doing the will of God. As an organism planted on this planet with many other species around us, it is necessary as the means of avoiding the most amount of suffering possible, to stay connected with the physical realities of paying attention to what we wanted to do with our lives.
How else does God speak to us? His “words’ are not voices that we hear, and if we do hear voices they are probably commands from egoic and super egoic locations in the mind-field. We can readily adopt the notion that if God speaks to us at all, it will probably be through the most primitive access and that would not be language, but rather from the theater of the body, as one French Psychoanalyst put it.
In the very first place, the experience of pleasure and desire are derived not from an egoic construction, or from a compilation of knowledge data. In the very first place, the experience of pleasure and desire is organized as a physical sensation. Sex and food are probably the two original pleasures that are conducted through the body. They are experienced as satisfied urges. A build up of frustration is experienced as an energy lack and the satisfaction of that lack admits a physical condition akin to “feels-good.”
Desire is the wanting to experience more of the sensation of well-being, or feels-good. It is a directionality that conducts the human being toward heat, away from cold, toward satiation and away from hunger, toward well-being and away from negative thoughts and emotions.
The obvious duality of the human mind is the simplest way that we have to go beyond, or cut through our reason to a more intuitive path of awakening or enlightenment. Quite simply if we are encountering a negative thought or a negative feeling from within, from deep into the subjective arena of the human situation, we can be certain that we are on the wrong path. We are being “wrong-minded,” we are being induces with a sensation from within the body alerting us to the fact that something has gone astray .
Conversely, when we are in a state of joy and gratitude or simply in a state of being at one and feeling the universality of cellular life; when our actions have led us to a place where our work and our mental status are in unison and we get the idea that all is right with the world…that we know is theologically having heard and followed the will of God. Psychoanalytically, we are well analyzed and our thought, ideas and reasonings do not interfere with our goals for ourselves and for our fellow creatures. Who we are and what we are wanting is not in conflict with the laws of the universe, when we place our state of desire at the center of how we arrive at what the next “right-action” ought to be for us to be maintaining our homeostasis (well-being).
Homeostasis is a term from physics and well-being is a term from relatively new age philosophy or theology. One is thought of as having a fixed scientific assessment while the other is arrived at through spiritual and subjective awakenings. But from the perspective of what it “feels” like we are talking about the same human condition.