Thursday, September 11, 2008

A Case of you: thoughts on lust and desire

"I could drink a case of you, darling
and still be on my feet" Joni Mitchell (1971)

The above snippet is from one of my ultimate favourite love songs of all time - "A case of you". In my opinion, Tori Amos' version is the best. These specific lyrics have made me think about many things love-related over the years. Two concepts have taken up some space in my mind off late: lust and desire. Two terms often used interchangeably; similar in meaning, but for me, two very different things.

A question of lust
Lust is defined as an overmastering craving; an intense sexual appetite ( Synonyms include insatiable, lecherous, lewd, libertine, lubricious, lustful, randy, salacious. All these terms relate to something relatively uncontrollable and ultimately primal in nature.

Desire is half of life (Kahlil Gibran)

Desire as a noun is defined as a longing or craving for something that brings satisfaction or enjoyment; as a verb it is to wish or long for; crave; want. Synonyms include ache, hanker, long, pine, want, wish, yearn. These symbolize an intensive yearning for something that will bring great satisfaction.

Out of the frying pan and into the fire
I wish to liken lust and desire to the element of fire. Fire consists of heat and air and some sort of fuel. Without one of these elements fire cannot exist. Similarly, lust and desire both contain elements that make them work. Passion is the heat that feeds the fire for lust and desire. The fuel is also similar: usually an object of intense affection. It is in the air that lust and desire require that I see a difference. And that air makes the difference between a destructive wildfire and the comforting flames of a winter fireplace.

The air that keeps lust going consists of a need for immediate gratification and this drive leaves no thoughts for consequence. Lust inhales its own pleasure above all others. Lust breathes with the body: with its most primal sexual nature. It is wild and uncontrolled, and in the drive to fulfill lust, it often sucks the life out of everything around it. Bad addictions are often the result of lust raging uncontrolled.

Desire's air is relational. It is something more than just an insatiable yearning. It is more than mindless passion and bodily drive. It is both primal and sophisticated; it inhales its own pleasure and exhales into the pleasure of others, like emotional CPR. It breathes through the heart, the mind and the body. It is vibrant and it gives life to all it touches. Its vigour comes from the same primal drive as that of lust. This is revealed in its passion and its fire, but it transcends the pure basic instinct of lust.

In many ways desire takes lust and turns it into a masterpiece in much the same manner as an artist takes formless clay and makes a figure. Lust is the clay, desire is the sculpture. Lust transformed is recreated as art. And that art is desire.

A Case of You
"Oh you are in my blood like holy wine
And you taste so bitter but you taste so sweet
Oh I could drink a case of you
I could drink a case of you darling
And still be on my feet"

I think Joni Mitchell knew desire when she wrote these beautiful lyrics. These words speak of pure, unadulterated desire. They talk of being intoxicated with the one you love: filled with the wine of that person's love. Intoxicated but not uncontrolled...

You see, lust will also want to drink the whole case. But it can only handle one bottle.

Desire... now desire will have the whole case. And in its warm intoxication, it will still be on its feet.


Louis said...

I can live with this Tania!
Now we just need to get those people who can distinguish around the table and then drink the whole case…

Eugene said...

Tania, I think you are onto something truly profound here. I think your observations are spot on and I would love to hear more. I have never thought of things this way but the way you put it makes total sense. Brilliant!