Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Seven Sins: Lust (or Perversion or Fornication)

"Love never dies a natural death. It dies because we don't know how to replenish its source. It dies of blindness and errors and betrayals. It dies of illness and wounds; it dies of weariness, of witherings, of tarnishings."
--Anaïs Nin

Nice quote, isn't it? It seems to have been written by someone of romantic sensibility, cautioning against the various ways that a love can die. Why in the world would Andy pick it for an entry about lust? It's not describing anything licentious; she's talking about love, which to many is separate and independently achieved from lust.

All of this may be true, but if you've never heard of Mrs. Nin, I encourage you to read about her. She was one of the Twentieth Centuries greatest hedonists. In addition to being one of first renowned female authors of erotica, she was also a bigamist (two separate lives with two unknowing husbands, who met after her funeral). She was also bisexual and managed to have intimate connections with many creative figures. In her personal diaries, she also describes having an incestuous relationship with her father. In short, she's just about the poster-lady for lust.

Nowadays, lust is most often associated with attraction. Many feel that a physical attraction to someone (without a balancing interest in anything beyond the surface) comprises lust. Often associated with dark and nasty urges, it's also the basis for love "at first sight." It seems to me that it's not just about attraction. There's a core of selfishness. If you lust after someone, you're probably not wondering how you can help them overcome their fear of heights, or advising them to patch up their differences with their family. You're interested in the flesh, and what the flesh can do for you. I don't often see lust linked with selfishness, but I think it's quite apt.

Another interesting aspect of lust is that it can be excessive "love" towards someone. By excessive, I mean that it causes otherwise important things to be tuned out, in favor of concetration. In this way, it can masquerade as love. People who focus too much on the object of their affections, at the expense of their own lives, have shifted the balance of their relationship into the "LUST" column. How many people do you know who aren't in a loving relationship, but rather in a lustful one (even if the lust has nothing to do with sex)?

I don't want to wander too far away from Lust, so I'll just mention that this "excessive love" concept will return when we talk about Pride. If Lust is all externally oriented, Pride is the internal version.

Another type of lust is related to power. You might think that rapists are all about the sex, but that's not entirely true. There is a sexual aspect, especially in the physical act performed, but rape is more about power. As an unfortunate description of this, many serial rapists who are chemically castrated continue to rape, even though they are no longer sexually capable. They do this because the domination and humiliation are the attractive agents, not the sex.

Under strict religious interpretation and understanding, Lust can also cover homosexuality, sex outside of marriage, and having sex for fun (or anything beyond baby-making).

Interestingly, some people consider lust to be the purest and most straightforward expression of love. This is explained by contending that love does not consider emotional state, social taboos, or other "baggage."

I prefer to consider love as one of the possible avenues that lust can create excess. Too much love, out of proportion within the relationship, is just as much a problem as too much physical attraction (in some cases, worse). People can be smothered by good intentions and concerns, and too much attention to another can often make one's own situation perilous.

I can guarantee that you'll be hearing me talk about a lot of moderation in entries like these. I firmly believe that's one of the most important regulatory procedures available. All our lives, we're told that time is short, but don't let haste lead to immoderation.

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