Initiation and Desire
Joe Clark ~~ Dec 31, 2002

Okay, I have two topics on my mind today (sorry, neither one is about New Year's -- maybe I'll have something to say about that at a later time). I think the two topics have some relevance to one another, so I'll describe them here within the same context.

First, over the last few weeks, there have been a few people who have dropped comments to me about the wonderful joys of initiation (my terms, not theirs). Whenever people talk like this to me, it is a bittersweet occasion. The sweetness of initiation is the hope of "success", however it's defined. The bitterness of initiation is the possibility of "failure", however it's defined. Nothing new there. The new thought I had is that I'd like to convince people (including myself) that I enjoy initiating. I think I am almost to that point personally. Initiating, as an act in itself, is always awkward, but it is (or can be) a beneficial social activity, and (believe it or not) I enjoy beneficial social activities. Beyond that, initiation is in a sense a chance to be creative, and I have almost convinced myself that I can be creative on occasion, at least in my own weird way (and part of why I sometimes don't initiate is because I want to be creative, and not initiate in the same boring ways). But, what life has taught me is that initiation is a losing cause, and, to use a chemistry term, is an endothermic reaction -- it sucks up energy without giving much in return. So, my first thought of life is that "inherently" I like initiation, but because of the pointlessness of it I avoid it. Why mess with my head more than life does already? So when people give me talk of initiation, and I don't respond (and inwardly just laugh), you can guess that the essence of this whole paragraph flashed before my mind's eye. This does not mean that I don't long to try, and it doesn't mean that I never do try, it's just that I weigh it heavily and with a healthy sense of skepticism.

Now, with that said, let's bring in the double standard. (Drum Roll, etc.) Let's talk about desire. To make a quick tie-in, I think that initiation has to do with desire. I want something, therefore I initiate in one of a hundred ways and ask for something. Tada. Desire. It is a dangerous game to admit that I want anything. Okay, I don't believe that, but it is...hazardous to my well-being to admit things, at least if I have any strings attached of expecting anything to be done about it. So desire exists, and when people urge me to initiate, they are fostering in me a sense of desire.

Of course, some might say that initiation is not about desire. Maybe (maybe) it's not about me. Maybe it's about giving someone else the chance to be involved in my life, to in essence give them a gift. That's a nice way to look at it. In fact, given a life to support that, I might think that too. But given experiences that equate initiating with begging, not gift-giving, I'm left with the idea that initiation is more about my desire than trying to benefit the recipient...just my observation.

Okay, how evil is that? What I'm getting at is the oft-quoted proverb that "you can't be happy as a non-single until you are happy as a single". Yes, I'm probably taking it out of context to say this, but does that not sound remarkably similar to "Banish all desire from your heart. Desire is the stuff of life that is the root cause of all kinds of evil and selfishness. You must realize that desire only serves to separate you from your God, the only true giver of good things. Therefore, have no desire for mere earthly things, but instead be happy where you are." Do you see the double standard yet? "Initiate, and you just might be happily surprised." "Have no desire." How much more opposite can we be? Which way is it? I know which I prefer, but my preference has little to do with "the way things are", "the way life is", or "the way God is". I don't like double standards, because I don't know how to think or what to do. In practice, I just choose my own course somewhere in the middle, but in theory double standards are annoying.Talk about mixed signals and darkened mirrors.

Now, probably all of the "be happy as a single" people are ready to say, "You don't get it...it's not about cessation of desire. It's about desire under control, desire with patience, desire that waits." I would agree that in practice that's what the statement ends up being. Otherwise the statement is stupid....why should I be happy as a single, and as soon as I Really Don't Care, then God graciously provides for me the things I have no desire for....how silly is that? So, I agree that the "be happy as a single" statement can be just a prolongation or patience of desire. But, for the sake of argument, and just by taking the statement at face value, I believe my previous conclusion (that the statement *implies* cessation of desire) has merit as well.

So, we've uncovered yet another annoying double standard of life. Desire, but not really. Pursue, but not really. Wait, but not totally. Forget it, but not forever. Think, but not too much. Stay aloof, but not completely. Dream your dreams, but don't count on gold at the end of the rainbow (at least not the kind of gold you may expect). So much for clarity of thought and the easy road. But who ever said the straight and narrow path doesn't have speed bumps on it?