Everything that makes life worth living is something we do not have. That is how it makes life worth living. If we had it, there would be no reason to continue. This means that desire is the evidence of everything meaningful in our lives.
The voices of the modern world tell us every day that we should “live for our desires,” but they really mean we should live to satisfy our desires, which means to end them or erase them through pleasure and comfort. As much pleasure and comfort as possible, as easily gained as possible. This, they think, will reduce the pain of lack and need, and therefore make us “happy.” (That is the progressive formula which Nietzsche identified as “the last man,” and which Huxley encapsulated, in Brave New World, with his apt descriptive phrase “twenty piddling little fountains.”)
When they say “happy,” they merely mean comfortable, free of the pains and struggles associated with desire and deficiency. But the painful experience of desire and deficiency is life, understood in the sense of one ascending from profound depths — the sense which has been judged antithetical, even offensive, to our age of surfaces without depths. Thus, when modern voices tell us to “live for our desires,” they are really telling us to stop living.
I refuse to stop living. I refuse to be modern in their way. I refuse to mistake satisfaction for meaning. I refuse the easy escape from the pain and need of purposeful living into the pleasure and comfort of insensitive existence. I choose to suffer with the pain and need, struggle with them, dig deep into them to find the beautiful, although it sometimes hurts — or rather because it sometimes hurts, inasmuch as some forms of pain may be the surest signs of life in an incomplete being.
I want to find the ultimately desirable, to observe it, to study all its surprising levels of being, to suffer through struggling to attain it, and (to borrow the great Platonic metaphor) to give birth to ideas and understanding through these labor pains. Thus, everything that helps me find the object I seek, or that reminds me of it, or that keeps me focused on the search, is good. Everything that merely relieves this discomfort, or helps me “forget,” is evil. That is my morality. All proper morality, in the end, is about living without the perfection we seek. The plausible differences between moral frameworks come down to whether, in that definitional phrase, one places one’s emotional emphasis on the word “without” or the word “seek.”
Anyone who would deprive me of my form of spiritual agitation, or try to weaken it, is aligned with evil, in the sense of being harmful to me. Today, the human world taken as a whole contrives and conspires to divest me of my beneficial and enriching pain, “for my own good” as they say in their more progressive moments. This makes the human world, in its current form, a particular existential threat, a nemesis, to be resisted at all costs.
I wish no friends or allies who would make me more comfortable with today, but only those who would share in my agitation against the present. I reject all political projects or social arrangements aimed at facilitating immediate gratifications — whether positive pleasure or the amelioration of pain or fear — which would simultaneously weaken or minimize the soul’s natural and ennobling tension and struggle. My attitude toward the crowd is neither sympathy nor a craving to be understood, but rather retreat: retreat to my privacy, to my separate space, to the few companions whom I can teach or from whom I can learn, to the rare authors (nearly all dead) who deepen my intellect, to my developmentally beneficial errors and failures, to my unanswered questions, and to the barely noticeable wisps of eternity that sometimes swirl past me for a moment, and which, if they are not to be overlooked entirely, require all my attention and my undistracted sensitivity.