Time for essay recap no. 2! I wrote this essay in February for an english assignment examining that peculiar (pesky more like!) characteristic of human nature: insatiable desire (that means you never are satisfied). Being a secular school, all the non-believers had their work cut out for them — as for myself, I had a head start on the topic!
Insatiable Desire: Romantic Depiction, Cultural Demands, or Realistic Nature?
Parents are well acquainted with the phenomenon — the week after Christmas their young toddlers and pre-teen kids, who had already enjoyed a spoilsome season, are forthwith drawn into the never-ending cycle of “if I get that toy, I’ll be happy forever.” Adults as well are befuddled by their ravenous desire for alternative (typically “better” to their understanding) circumstances and possesions. Yi-Fu Tuan verbalizes this peculiar trait of human nature: “Human beings have been and continue to be profoundly restless. For one reason or another, they are not content with being where they are. They move, or if they stay in one place, they seek to rearrange that place.”
Insatiable longing is the subject of nearly all the classic literary works, whether thematically or not. The protagonist’s desire for what he delights in (e.g. homeland, scenic country, or loved one) consistently clashes with those of the antagonist and Fate itself. Shakespeare’s sonnet 129 serves as an excellent instance of this perception:
“The expense of spirit in a waste of shame
Is lust in action; and till action, lust
Is perjured, murderous, bloody, full of blame,
Savage, extreme, rude, cruel, not to trust,
Enjoy’d no sooner but despised straight,
Past reason hunted, and no sooner had
Past reason hated, as a swallow’d bait
On purpose laid to make the taker mad;
Mad in pursuit and in possession so;
Had, having, and in quest to have, extreme;
A bliss in proof, and proved, a very woe;
Before, a joy proposed; behind, a dream.
All this the world well knows; yet none knows well
To shun the heaven that leads men to this hell.”
(from Shakespeare’s Sonnets, #129)
Such common portrayal has inevitably caused the modern audience to reject these notions and instead dismiss them as classical Romanticism. While it may be admitted that humanity’s longing has been and continues to be immortalized, the validity of such pivotal human nature need not be questioned merely on account of exaggeration.
Although one might not dismiss insatiability entirely as purely Romantic, he might be further inclined to suggest that the unquenchable “I want” of modern culture may be attributed to the materialistic hype that the marketing profession flagrantly encourages. Admittedly, culture has contributed largely to promoting this general attitude of dissatisfaction; again however, cultural influence cannot entirely explain mankind’s unhealthily voracious appetite for materialistic wealth — it would seem that humanity naturally yearns for more or better possessions, barring outside influences.
If insatiable desire is neither the sole responsibility of Romantic depiction nor cultural pressure, what is the core motivator behind such an irrepressible passion? If it is indeed an “instinctive” behavior, the source of such craving varies according to one’s religion — to the atheist or agnostic, lust for materialistic wealth is an outgrowth of animalistic roots. In contrast, the Scriptures — primarily through the observations Christ and the Old Testament poets conferred — attribute materialistic hunger to man’s natural depravity as the consequence of original sin. Although Scripture clearly denounces materialism, the Protestant work ethic is also enforced; therefore, the boundaries which differentiate simple longing for improved circumstances from insatiable lust for worldly substance must be determined based on the motives behind those desires. One must ultimately consider the role of wealth in his priorities as compared with those Scripture emphasizes.
Indeed, the plight of humanity is to suffer at the whim of want; mankind’s materialistic addiction has often been at the center of grave conflictions — however, one must assess its cause for a proper diagnosis. If insatiability is merely the subject of the great Romantic authors or classicalism, materialistic behavior is elaborated at least and non-existent at best. However, thoroughly advertised cultural expectations easily contributes to the influx in aspiration — still, there is yet another culprit in cahoots with the commercial industry. Human nature, according to Biblical principles, is utterly corrupt and refuses to be contented with present circumstances, for which reason Christ prompts humanity to seek satisfaction and refuge in Him, rather than life’s fleeting pleasures.
Shakespeare, William. Shakespeare’s Sonnets. Ed. G. Blakemore Evans. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1996.
Tuan, Yi-Fu. “Earth: Nature and Culture.” Making Sense. 2nd ed. Ed. Bob Coleman. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company. 2006. (582-594). Print.