The following is a true story about someone that I know. He, being hungry for female relationship as well as feeling the urgency of sexual desire, strikes up several online relationships which quickly escalate to he and three women sending graphic images back and forth in emails; in his case, of him in full frontal nudity with an erection, as well as some genital close-ups. Having gotten his most primal attention, each of the three women then separately convince him that they need his financial assistance, eventually wiping out his retirement fund. All of it. And then they each disappear. Desperate for money he sells his computer… forgetting that the photos of himself are still on it. After the sale the buyer, realizing the goldmine that he has stumbled upon, contacts my friend and demands a monthly fee for not posting the photos on the internet!
Almost unbelievably, this is not the first time in his life that my friend’s un-nameable yearnings have driven him to reach for less than adequate solutions. But he is not alone; for some people there is a constant sense of absence at the core of themselves, a sense that something or someone is missing. One solution to the presence of absence is to try and fill it with something, anything: Food, sex, drugs, travel, shopping. Often, however, that hole at the heart of ourselves seems bottomless, easily swallowing any remedies that we might think to stuff into it and yet leaving us still yearning. But yearning for what? And that’s the problem: Not knowing what it is we yearn for, we reach for any old solution, which often turns out to be no solution at all.
Sometimes we have no words for what we’re going through, and that can be disturbing and disorienting. We don’t know what we even feel about what we feel, seemingly bereft as we are of both words and understanding. At such times it can be helpful for us to stay present to the feelings, instead of trying any old options in an attempt to banish those feelings. In western culture we view mystery as something to be solved; in other cultures mystery is seen as a presence to be lived with, allowing it to reveal itself to us over time. This requires that we not panic and run when we detect an un-nameable yearning deep within. If we stay present to this mystery at the heart of ourselves words and understanding will eventually come; sages of many traditions attest to this.
My friend is not some sex-crazed monster driven senseless by lust. He is one of the kindest persons I have ever met who, at the same time, seems to lack a sufficient degree of commonsense. People are attracted to his kindness and eventually… every single time… someone takes advantage of his sweet nature, usually leaving him penniless. He can’t seem to make sense of this repeated pattern, but sure enough… it happens again! A mystery, indeed… not only to him, but also to me.