The trajectory of desire

In choosing your own trajectory, therefore, it’s important not to overstep the boundaries of the trajectories of others

Country Armen Darbinyan


The eternal temptation of progress is to leave behind that which has passed, to regard it as dead. Because times have changed, and we’ve changed along with them, and we’re better off without the weight of the past. The genre of philosophical writing has suffered this battle over the last century, declared time and time again obsolete before being resurrected with joy and admiration. There’s a simple explanation: nothing can replace a direct appeal to a distant friend, a message from one soul to another, or a reflection on the eternal questions of being. Bringing the tradition of philosophical letters to The World magazine is Armen Darbinyan, Russian-Armenian (Slavonic) University Rector, former Prime Minister of Armenia, and member of the Armenian National Academy of Sciences.

According to Scheler, man, unlike animals, can say «NO» to reality. The ability to deny the present reality, if it runs counter to your desires or principles, is, every time, analogous to the right to change your reality. That «NO» seems to include a whole lot: the desire to know yourself, the temptation not to live your life horizontally — that is, along the current — but to live vertically. Because to live is to grow, to change, to explore and enrich the world with your own experiences. Our verticals are made up of our desires. They’re the source of movement. One of the most fascinating trajectories is the desire to know yourself.

As far as the specifications go, we’re all distinct, and our diverse trajectories of self-knowledge vary accordingly. But that’s the beauty of life: the uniqueness of our paths is the key to a constantly enriching experience, the earth’s engine of eternity. There can be no repetitions, which means that there can be no competition between people. Those of us who don’t grasp that, who don’t manage to create our own moving trajectory towards our desires, are doomed to wander eternally and in vain along the trajectories of others, consumed by one passion alone: the envy of others’ temptations and trajectories, incomprehensible and irrelevant to the ascension of our own souls. The result of such a path is eventual self-destruction. The tenth commandment is the hardest to fulfill: it’s easy not to kill or steal, but nearly impossible to refrain from envy. Perhaps we should understand and accept the divergence and distinction of our trajectories, elevate each other and help in their implementation. It’s a wonderful thing when this happens in matters of Love, the only instance that allows the conscious overlaying of different vectors and intersections of space. What indicates whether our trajectory is the right one is the state of the Spirit, Mind, and Body trinity, as well as harmony both within and without.

Self-knowledge may be our inner trajectory, but there is another thing that has a perhaps equally strong hold over us. The knowledge that everything passes, including life, leads to the eternal temptation to leave behind something immortal. Realising our own incompleteness, we seek a sense of completion and eternity in some impeccable example of the ideal. For some, this example is found in a ruler, insatiable in his appetite, birthing monsters in the form of demons, «saviours,» «the sun of nations.» The desire to become and be strong seems inherent in all of us. But Strength, even if clothed in a noble mission, is destructive and meaningless in nature without Love and Respect for others.

In choosing your own trajectory, therefore, it’s important not to overstep the boundaries of the trajectories of others, not to make anyone an instrument — or, worse, a hostage — to the fulfillment of your mission, your desires and achievement. Precisely in this lies the true peak of humanity.

At some point, I was asked to give my own definition of Strength. I answered that strength is the willingness and ability to reject progress. For the sake of an idea, principle, peace of mind, truth, love. Today I would go even further: Strength is the ability and willingness to give up desire for the sake of harmony in and around yourself. Yes, that does mean that some part of our mission will remain forever unfulfilled, but we can’t do it all, so it doesn’t really matter. What matters is that the content and amount of unfulfilled actions are our conscious choice.

All my life, I’ve been tempted by success. It’s never called to me, led me, or particularly excited me, but I’ve been tempted all the same. So, each time, I approach success only mentally at first, reaching the desired level of success in thought and even feeling. Only then do I follow through to its realisation. At the same time, I would perceive every instance of success not as the end point of desire, but as a starting point for the creation of yet another temptation of ambition. Indeed, success is, rather ironically, rarely possible without prior success, and failure can surely be a useful lesson, but it’s hardly a starting point for new successes. You need a recipe for success, and the whole mystery is finding out where it comes from — luck, chance, fate, or just a well thought-out strategy? I prefer the lattermost option.

I’ll let you in on an interesting lesson: to conceive of success in your head, to get a real mental grasp on it, then to understand the extent of your ambitions, to create temptation out of them, and only then to bring them to fruition. The beauty of this procedure is that you can follow it all your life and never get bored. Even the egocentrics out there manage to construct images of success for the afterlife, as the world around still spins under the influence of their mental constructions.

Almost all religions, teachings, and moral instructions establish the rejection of temptation as the nearly predominant human virtue. In such cases, the subject of temptation tends to centre around the forbidden fruit. My philosophy includes no such problem: success cannot be forbidden, yet refraining from success is a virtue. Therefore, if renouncing your object of desire is a sign and indication of Strength, then the rejection of temptation is an indicator of stupidity and narrow-mindedness. But this, I repeat, is merely my own philosophical construction. Others may very well find it to be just the opposite.

I’ve ended up working out a mandatory condition for myself: every case of success must be accompanied by personal growth. I must become more, develop my capacity for Love, Goodness, Empathy, Responsibility, and Strength. Otherwise, success makes no sense. It could even lead to some kind of bacchanalian egocentrism, inevitably resulting in internal destruction.

I believe that the Creator designed us according to towering plans. Our vertical ambitions are constantly reminding us of this. «We never know how high we are till we are called to rise.» And we will rise — we’ve got our whole lives ahead of us. Almost an eternity.

* quote from Emily Dickinson’s poem