The rantings of a beautiful mind

On life, society, and computer technology.

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Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada

I live in the Fortress of Solitude. I drive the Silver Beast. My obsession is justice. I used to be a Windows software developer. I retired in 2000 when my stock options helped me achieve financial security.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Eros and Addiction

I happened to come across this Macleans article by accident and it seems especially relevant in view of Marc Gafni's book that I'm reading. My impression from the article is that our society is very ill spiritually. People flit in and out of casual relationships with nonchalance and they are afraid to commit.

Jillian Strauss says:

There is this idea that newer is better. I think that you can't help sometimes but relate that to your personal life and think, well, this person is great, but maybe there is somebody else out there who might be better. I can meet a more attractive woman or a more successful man. I heard it repeated over and over that people were afraid of "settling" because "somebody better might come along."

We do live in such an immediate gratification time. So that when you first start dating, or are into a relationship for a couple of months, when it gets dull, or when it gets hard and requires a bit of effort, there is a temptation to think: "Oh, this might not be right. Let me find someone else."

But for our generation, we want the fun, we want the immediacy, but we don't want to ride out the slow times, or the rough times.

People are unwilling to remain in the emptiness and work their way through to self-discovery and personal growth. Marc Gafni puts it best this way:

Eros is about feeling the fullness of being, the opposite of emptiness. Every human being has met emptiness, that feeling we experience late at night, home alone or in the hotel room we return to after a long day's work on a business trip. We enter the room and are often overwhelmed by intense feelings of emptiness. We flip on the cable or order up dinner and entertainment – anything not to stay in the emptiness. Indeed the sentence that I probably repeat to my students more than any other is: "Life is what you do with your emptiness."

In our society, which sadly defines human beings as consumers and not lovers, denying the emptiness is the primary strategy for coping with it. We are sold ful-fill-ment at every turn and in every guise. We buy, buy, buy, hoping that one of the hawked elixirs might finally full-fill us. And yet the emptiness lingers.

This is the great paradox of emptiness. The first way to approach emptiness must be not to fill it but simply to be mindful of it. To notice the emptiness. The goal is to move beyond the void to the fullness of eros and Shechina. Yet paradoxically you can only access the fullness of being if you are willing to stay in the emptiness long enough to find your way. The path to eros is filled with detours to pseudo eros, but they are all dead ends. When we are so desperate for fullness, when the emptiness hurts too much, these detours seduce us off the path, often spinning us to painful places where we never wanted to go.

Addiction is, at its root, the inability to stay in the emptiness. So we rush to fill the emptiness with whatever gives us the quickest hit of pseudo eros. Pseudo eros is virtually always addictive. Pseudo eros has many disguises – sex, food, public acclaim, drugs, work. Goethe was right when he defined addiction as anything you cannot stop doing. We are all addicts.

What Jillian Strauss is really talking about is our society's pursuit of pseudo eros. Our lack of true eros leads us to search for it in all the wrong places and the pseudo eros we engage in is responsible for our addictions, which include sex, casual relationships, consumerism, antidepressants...anything to kill the pain, any way to fill the emptiness.


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