by Emily Mangum (’14)
Desire is a word, and a concept, that has held a personal fascination for me since I was a child.
Desire is both a verb and a noun.
The first definition in the Oxford English Dictionary for the noun desire is: “The fact or condition of desiring, that feeling or emotion which is directed to the attainment or possession of some object from which pleasure or satisfaction is expected; longing, craving; a particular instance of this feeling, a wish.”
The definition that interests me more is an obsolete one, “Longing for something lost or missed; regret,” because it implies that desire does not need to be fixed on a concrete, attainable end. We can desire what we cannot ever possess. We can even desire what we cannot name.
Jack Gilbert, in his poem “The Forgotten Dialect of the Heart,” compares desire to a giraffe.
I do not know what this means.
A few months ago I listened to a guitar piece titled “Flight of the Lovers through the Valley of Echoes,” and those words, to me, meant desire.
At the end of C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, when the Pevensies have come into their own and arrived at the castle of Pair Caravel where they are to be crowned kings and queens, Lewis addresses the reader. He writes, “And oh, the cry of the seagulls! Have you heard it? Can you remember?”
Desire, I thought when I read those words as a child, is the cry of the gull at the shore of the sea.
“Where there is desire,” sings P!nk, “there is gonna be a flame. Where there is a flame, someone’s bound to get burned. But just because it burns doesn’t mean you’re gonna die.”
In The Weight of Glory, C.S. Lewis writes, “The books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them…For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never visited.”
“What we feel most has,” Gilbert finishes,
“no name but amber, archers, cinnamon, horses and birds.”
Seagull photo is from here.