Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Lust and Chastity

To recap yesterday's stress-eating, I ate two bowls of oatmeal sprinkled with brown sugar, a large bowl of vegan chilli topped with decidedly non-vegan cheese and sour cream, a large cup of coffee (raw sugar and soy - because I have only so much tolerance for my lactose intolerance), a "snack size" Oreo McFlurry, a blueberry granola bar and juice box (I from my afternoon job tutoring grade schoolers. Not that I'm averse to buying my own juice box. They're awesome!), a chicken torta, a Butterfinger, and a slice of homemade pumpkin pie (courtesy my roommate's mom). I would've had more if a Skor bar hadn't fallen out of my pocket on the bus. Somebody got lucky there...

What of this did I need? I wasn't hungry at any of these feedings and could've been well enough with one bowl of oat meal, half that bowl of chilli - or at least without the dairy products - and the torta.

Oh, and that pie.

The fact is that I lusted for 400 calories of saccharin-infused corn by-products. And then I lusted I my pockets for the change to buy it (get your minds out of the gutter!).

Lord save me, it wasn't even that good.

Lust is almost always defined in terms of sexuality, but it's much broader and deeper than that. Lust is the need for instant gratification of our desires by objectifying and consuming that which can temporarily satisfy us.

Lust is turning ourselves, others, and the good resources of the world into mere instruments devoid of wholeness in order to get what we want now.

A lust for power
A Lust for Power. Aimaness Photography
Lust isn't just about bodily activities, but also the consumerist need to keep up with the Joneses and so deprive ourselves, our body, our senses, our world, our friends, our neighbors of their full potential.

Lust doesn't just manifest itself in pornography and one night stands, it is embodied in our credit reports, it is demonstrated in our shopping habits, it is seen in our living rooms and closets.

And lust is strongest where the temptations are the most powerful. This is where everyone, the top and the bottom percenters, are liable to fall. And it's strongest of all where the income disparity is biggest, because the Joneses are unattainable, and the social status - gotten through mounds of unassailable credit - is all that more urgent.

It's McFlurrys, flat-screen TVs, nights at the multiplex, fur-lined boots, converted condos, extravagant coffee tables, coffee table books (we never, ever read them), disposable dresses, iPhones.

I lust for books even though I read at a snail's pace. They were getting ready to do a spin-off of Hoarders just for me before I reluctantly sold half my titles.

This lust, this consumerism, is as dangerous as greed to our well-being because it is the engine for greed. If we can slow down our lust for materialism, we can grind down the entire Greed Machine.

Which, I'm well aware, takes a lot of mental fortitude. Not necessarily because people are lazy or stupid or any other sort of excuse moralists like myself use to feel superior, but because we are constantly bombarded with psychological warfare that tells us/instructs us/coddles us/warns us that we are only as good as what we possess.

And that which the corporate machines sell to us is guaranteed not to last.

Not that this is new to us. Many of us are aware of the inconsistencies, but we're programmed to live them out. That's why so many billions upon billions of dollars are paid by advertisers trying to jam our brains with their messages. Buy Now. Buy Now. Buy Now.

What if we were chaste instead? What if we said to the authorities of the social, political, and economic worlds: NO! Enough is enough. I control me! I want to receive more out of life than material wants.

What if they realized that we understood that instant gratification does not equal long-lasting satisfaction? That a fleeting laugh is not the same as day-long joy?

What if we grabbed and turned around a puritanical, joy-deprived word like Chastity and renewed it to its revolutionary impact? Because, amongst powers that demand us to buy now, buy now, buy now, to not do so, to not immediately turn what is precious and whole into what is objectified, consumed and tossed aside is to be revolutionary. Is to say, "We are not satisfied with filling our bellies. We want fulfillment. You have taken that from us to sell us retrograde garbage. Give us us back!"

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