So having said this, why is the collective title of this multi-part post “our culture of aversion“? Surely we can see all around us that desire indeed dominates the human realm, especially today in the era of The Consumer. Just about everywhere we can look we are being sold something, told we need something, want something, can’t live without something. (Although not at least, here in Vermont, while driving, as we are one of four states which ban billboards – the other three being Maine, Alaska, and Hawaii.)
There are currently over 700,000 apps available for the iPhone. (700,000! I had no idea there could be anything even vaguely close to that number of things you could, like, do with stuff.) A Netflix subscription gives access to around 50,000 movies. iTunes currently contains over 20 million items! That’s truly mindblowing to think about. And then, in terms of desire of another kind, pre-internet the only naked bodies the average person would see over the course of their lives were those they actually knew, touched, slept with, played rugby with etc. Today with a few clicks of a mouse, anyone can utterly shatter the lifetime record of everyone who lived pre-1990s – in the space of literally minutes!
There is no question that we live in a realm of desire, a realm organized around curiosity and appetite and hunger for novelty, around grasping for new experience, as well as – a different thing – clinging to possessions, situations, accomplishments. A realm in which communication and relationship to others, at all levels, is central. And much of this of course is good, more than good, stupendously wonderful. Eg, curiosity is a crucially necessary quality for all growth. A love for meaningful connection to others, a passion for excellence in work and creative expression, a yearning to diminish cruelty in the world and heal the pains of others, promote ecological health: this is humanness at its core and at its best.
And with regard to enjoyment itself, even the buddhist teachings say – contrary to what many assume – that there is nothing whatsoever problematic about it. One should enjoy, in fact in many respects much more than we actually do. The issue has to do with the clinging aspect, with our lack of practice in dancing with impermanence and interdependence.
But in any event, why do I speak of a “culture of aversion”? What I’m referring to is another quality that is strongly present in our culture, so much so that it could even be argued it often trumps everything else, crushes curiosity, relationship, growth. How does this manifest?
More to come…