The Diseases of Desire

just as no amount of fluid will satisfy one whose craving arises not from lack of water but from burning internal fever; for that is not a thirst but a disease.  Nor is this true only of money or food: the same feature is found in every desire which arises not from a lack but from a vice. […]

So the man who restrains himself within the bounds set by nature will not notice poverty; the man who exceeds these bounds will be pursued by poverty however rich he is.


Seneca embraces us for disaster.  The disaster of desire flushing upon a dry desert sand.  He suggests that desires flow from gushers, gushers that sit within our mind and heart.  Depending on the truth of the gusher dictates the amount each desire can be consummated.  Completed. Overjoyed.

But then, Seneca mentions bounds.  Restraints to desire.  As if, well, there are not different desires, as if we could choose which to have.  Instead, he sounds more modest, suggesting that we tamper desire.  In a sense he gives up sifting through our desires; deciding which desires to choke before they sprout.

Then again, all this might be nonsense. A misinterpretation.  For on second reading, one understands better the anecdote about fluid to satisfy a craving coming from thirst or disease.  The point is, that there is no way to satisfy the desire.  In fact, to satisfy it will only worsen the disease.

Here we move the hermeneutical circle.  The circle shifts, posing the question, “how might we fill the deeper desire?” The desire rooted in the disease; the disease aching within the bones.

Wise Seneca, then entering through this hermeneutic, suggests we look for bounds.  Look for what might satisfy as a remedy, what might minimally sustain the condition and not worsen it.  That is, let us cautiously diagnose, and more slowly, approach a fix.


About Rene Diebenkorn

Lifetime Artist. ETC.

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