the bastard aims of desire

In this passage from the introduction to Built Upon Love by Alberto Perez-Gomez, we read that our pursuit of happiness, and our faith in technology and progress have removed us from living in our real place:  our flesh and blood bodies, with thoughts of reason and immortality and, ultimately love.  We deny love and, says Perez-Gomez, love is crucial to our humanity.

Modern Western civilization takes for granted a quest to pursue individual happiness and freedom.  It is driven by what it perceives as a ‘natural’ right to seek pleasure and avoid pain, a fundamental accomplishment of democracy brought about by the political revolutions at the end of the eighteenth century.  For a hedonistic culture, architecture’s vocation is to ensure the greatest pleasure and least pain for each individual.  Our technological building practices, even when mindful of ecological responsibility of claiming high artistic aspirations, still pursue a functionalist utopia in which all desires are fulfilled through material means, eliminating all irritants and always aiming at greater economy and comfort:  maximum efficiency, economy, commodity, and entertainment value.  Consumption and possession prevail as the bastard aims of desire.  Their overwhelming presence in contemporary life enhances our propensity to forget that we are our mortal bodies whose very flesh is also that of the world, a common element that grants the light of reason and immortal thoughts, while pulling us down into the darkness of the earth.  We forget that love and death, pleasure and pain are inextricably linked through our embodied consciousness.  We go even further and tend to deny the very existence of love (as technology may wish to deny the existence of death).  Fragmented into multiple emotions in our materialistic culture, the cynic and intellectual alike have trouble acknowledging love in view of our modern difficulty to grasp it as a gift, often contradictory since it is beyond the rules of economic transactions.  My wager, with Jose Ortega y Gasset and Jean-Luc Marion, is that love not only exists but is crucial to our humanity; that despite its contradictions it is of a piece, and can indeed be spoken about.

Alberto Perez-Gomez, Built Upon Love

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