Desire is often seen as weakness, as a suspension of rationale for a kind of primal, emotional freefall. As our desire increases, our mental capacities dim, swerving us off course in a reckless direction. “That in which all human life is united is passion,” Kierkegaard says, and to give in to our passion is seen as a rejection of objectivity to embrace a sort of chaos. But is this chaos inherently evil? Does it detract from lived experience or invigorate it?
The subjective concoction of passion often irks the logical observer, who then creates from their fear some logos of irresponsibility. But cauterized passion cannot exist passively. It requires justification, a blunt and incessant trauma inflicted upon parts of the natural self. Such a perpetually-dissective, dismissive dogma is a method of denial and limits life to creeds and systems.
“The danger of passion might lie not in its novelty but in its naturalness,” Kate O’Brien writes in The Ante-Room, playing on the supposed radicalism of passion’s historical designation. Qualified as the aberrant, uncouth trait in a well-groomed society, O’Brien rightly flips this definition of passion back into the natural. Its danger, ironically contextualized by O’Brien, arises when it has been dampened. Such a natural burial sublimates in the educated man a state of fear, a fear of unpredictability, which is of, course a fear of life itself. What the system feeds on is knee-jerk fear, based in an unrealistic yearning to snuff out passion, to clamp it down with objective reasons that serve as the markers of an orderly life. But this facile denial remains combustible when real desire surfaces. Even the ever-expanding lexicon of suppression, concomitant with exponential increases in science, fails to account for what desire can represent: not a frightening, mental scattershot unleashed simply to destroy, but, as Chris Kraus calls it, “a surplus energy — a claustrophobia inside your skin.”
In her idiosyncratic masterpiece, I Love Dick, Kraus explores the nature of desire as a generative phenomenon. What Kraus discovers, after falling into an impossible passion, is that, among other things, desire, at its core, is a positive. It does not detract from the degrees of objective certitude we require to survive, but actually adds an intensity to them that allows us to live. Félix Gauttari, when he describes love, says, “previously unimagined systems unfurl themselves in a once empty world. New possibilities of freedom are revealed.” In a world governed by our thoughtless, objective glide, in our days dominated by so much un-thorough moving-throughness, passion allows us to paint a wondrous, generative patina.
This is not the rose-colored idiocy of the thoughtless optimist, though. It is the hyper-intellectual awareness spawned by passion’s surcharge. The energy we bring to our lives when we release, find or stumble upon moments (states, fugues) of passion forms a present bereft of subjective guardrails in the world of teeming objectivity. The beauty is that this removal and improvement remains internal; it alters us but does not hamper others or the world (usually). Our creative capacities fire, and we inject our reality with a subjective gush. Gauttari pushes for what he calls “lived experience,” which “does not mean sensible qualities. It means intensification.” What this intensification looks like and how its degrees manifest remains an individual piece of oft-elusive ephemera. Passion and desire come and go, but the more open to the positive experience we remain, the more liable we are to live a click more intensely.