Escape from Pain: The Killing of Desire

19 11 2009

In recent posts, I’ve argued that the holding up of selflessness as a virtue can be quite damaging. Now let me take that one step further: There’s a reason why Satan wants you to be self-less:

Satan HATES you.That’s right. He hates you. The less of you there is, the happier he will be. Whenever you feel alive, whenever you are feeling deeply, I am convinced that Satan is disgusted. His dream is not just to take your joy and turn it into sorrow – for sorrow is itself a gift of God, a godly response to brokenness in the world. Rather, Satan wants to turn your sorrow to bitterness, your bitterness to hardness of heart, and your hardness to numbness. His dream is that you would feel nothing at all.The difficulty with having a self, with being fully alive, with feeling is that they always eventually lead to pain. And so we are susceptible – every day of our lives – to be drawn towards the only alternative: numbness.

1087syringe

"Anesthesia" doesn't just mean "no pain". It means, "no FEELING".

This theme of the killing of desire runs throughout a lot of the music that I love. Naturally, artists tend to be people who feel deeply. We all have heard the statistics of how artists are more prone to depression and suicide than most people. So naturally artists are also people who wrestle deeply with their desires and the danger of having a heart that is alive in a broken world.

I love that the work of these artists – who in all likelihood don’t even believe the same things that I believe – contains within it deep truths about life, matters of the heart, and desire.

David Whyte, a poet of whom I am a big fan, says that poetry is, “the art of articulating things that you didn’t know you knew”. I love this definition. One of the reasons I’m so drawn to art in general is the ways it so often inadvertently articulates deep truths of life that are far beyond what we could have actually communicated in “regular” conversation. I think it’s so beautiful that a musician can simply write a poem about how he’s feeling at a particular moment, and packed into those words can be truths that go far beyond what he was explicitly thinking about.

Here’s one song by an artist struggling with this dilemma: whether to feel or go numb to remain safe from pain:

I like Paramore when they’re acoustic.
I believe that Christians have a responsibility in this world to embrace the risk of feeling and desire so that we may draw others towards real life. This inspires me to be careful not to subtly or inadvertently devalue desire and self-hood in my daily conversations.

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2 responses

19 11 2009
karen

i like paramore all the time.

23 11 2009
Megan

Hey Tim, you should check out the lyrics to Ingrid Michaelson’s “Everybody”… this post and your next most recent one made me think of this song. I hope you’re well!

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