“Many painters are afraid of the blank canvas, but the blank canvas is afraid of the truly passionate painter who dares.”
Vincent Van Gogh, letter to Theo, Oct 2, 1884.
Path of Attraction.
The dogma on desire in the indoctrination of my youth spelled “desire” as “evil”; the passage through longing and long years tells it in multiplicity.
In one spin, those warning tones still weigh heavily, like a phrase from Stephen Mitchell’s retelling of the 84th Psalm, “let go of all desires” (although the surrounding context gives a fuller meaning, see below**).
And yet, heard in a different voice, the radiance of desire glows; like Mitchell’s version of Psalm 34:
You who desire true life
and wish to walk on God’s path:
Depart from evil; do good;
seek peace with all your soul
The alchemical complexity of desire simmers in the marvelous excavations that William C. Chittick works in The Sufi Path of Love: The Spiritual Teachings of Rumi:
On the Day of Alast the Beloved said something else, but in a whisper. Do any of you remember?
He said, “I have hurried to you, I have made you for Myself. I will not sell what I have made for Myself at auction.”
I said, “Who art Thou?” He said, “The Desire of all.” I said, “Who am I?” He said, “The desire of the Desire.”
Divan, lines 9265-67, p. 69.
Which will overcome, Mercy or Wrath? Which will overcome, the springs of Paradise or the fires of Hell?
Since the Covenant of Alast both branches—forbearance and anger—have existed to attract men to themselves.
That is why both negation and affirmation are contained in the single word “Alast” (“Am I not?”).
For this word is affirmative through its interrogative form, but “not” is buried within it.
Mathnawi, Book V, lines 2123-26, p. 69.
Let’s consider “Desire” in this way: Am I not? Hold the deep questioning. Contain the affirmation of desire. Allow attraction to the essence, to the divine, to Love. And realize the “not” is buried within it.
Thanks to Maria Popova for focusing this letter from the extensive correspondence of Vincent to Theo: https://www.brainpickings.org/2015/11/02/van-gogh-fear-risk/?mc_cid=dbad5e9399&mc_eid=3434d3f5f1 ).
**Happy are those who trust you/ and merge their will in your will./ They let go of all desires/ and give up everything they know,/ until they finally enter/ the inmost temple of the heart,/ where there is no self, no other,/ nothing, but only you.
Psalm 84, p. 37; Psalm 34 on p. 18. Stephen Mitchell, A Book of Psalms.