It’s not been a good week for Arnold Schwarzenegger; worse for Dominique Strauss-Kahn. Schwarzenegger, the erstwhile governor of California, admitted to fathering a child with a member of his household staff. Strauss-Kahn, the IMF chief, was yanked off a plane after—police say—he sexually assaulted a hotel maid in his $3,000-a-night room.
These lurid stories play out on CNN, staggering our minds. Why would The Terminator need a household servant? He has a gazillion dollars and Maria Shriver. Why would Strauss-Kahn, a global titan and the French presidency within his grasp, attack a poor hotel maid? He could have anything he wants, couldn’t he?
That’s the problem. These sad public scenes of sexual acting-out remind us how far out of touch we are with our real desires. What we truly desire is intimacy, tenderness, emotional closeness. But nothing in the culture affirms this, especially not in men. All of these deeply human needs are stuffed, repressed, and we go voraciously after something else to fill the void. But untethered sex cannot fill the longing. As the saying goes, you cannot get enough of what you do not really want. That’s why we have to keep pouring more and more and more into that bottomless pit. Whereas one ounce of tenderness fills our hearts to overflowing.
What do you want? Really. Hunger and longing are funny things, easily mistaken for something else. We sense a pang, an emptiness, some vague desire: open the fridge and grab a beer, open a box of cookies, search the internet, light up, flip channels, head for some hot spot. We cannot get enough of what we do not really want. And when we have had our fill, the emptiness echoes like a canyon.
It’s OK to have deep hungers, powerful longings: they’re divine implants. Take a moment to know that hunger and feed your body and soul what it really craves. That’s what I wish for Arnold and Dominique, for you and for me.