First Order Desire

1st Order Desire – A simple desire.  The desire for food, comfort, and sex.

2nd Order Desire – A desire about a desire: I desire not to desire food so much, because it will make me fat.  I desire not to desire sex so much, because I will catch VD.  Etc.

It was just after dawn.  I thundered along the track, kicking up wet gravel and splashing through puddles.  I was on my second two mile run of the morning.  My lungs burned.  No matter how hard I pumped my legs, I knew my time was going to be miserable.  I doubled over three feet past the finish line, sucking wind.

My running shoes were soaked.  I felt the blisters on my feet with every short, robotic stride.  My knees ached from sprinting in body armor in the days before.  I was running unencumbered, but you wouldn’t know it to look at me.  I could taste blood on every breath.

I was more than passing, but less than perfect.  90-something percent.

The Shogun once told me that I had no quit in me.  That isn’t true.  I have a lot of quit in me.  From the first quarter mile until the last twenty yards, I felt like quitting.  My brain frantically tried to find a short-cut, a bypass, a way out.  The word quit burned through my brain like tracer rounds, every fifth thought.

Somewhere on that run I though about my father.  I remembered him crushing me for every imperfection.

I have a horrible fear of failure.  No matter how implausible or far reaching my goals are, every step I take that deviates from the path fills me with anxiety.  Then the negative feedback loop kicks in.  Anger.  Resentment.  Frustration.

I desire happiness.  I desire comfort.  I desire love.

I desire to be hard.

The first three come without much effort.  The last one is a complex desire.  I desire not to desire comfort.  I desire not to desire happiness.  Embrace the suck.

Lying in a sleeping bag in the pouring rain, soaked to the skin and shivering, it occured to me that this is exactly what I volunteered for.  Not a ribbon or a piece of cloth.  Not a God damned merit badge.

Every test that comes, I find myself wanting to quit.  Desperate to quit.  Anything to make the pain stop.  The desire grows stronger until I fumble across the finish line, feeling wretched.  Afterward I realize that I finished.  Whatever I think I’m capable of, there is a lot more left on the table.

4 thoughts on “First Order Desire

  1. If your goal was something essentially internal, like being the best weightlifter you can be, I would say your attitude would be perfect.

    I don’t know what your real mission will be when you deploy again, but I assume it will involve interaction with the outside environment – maybe learning Dari or Pashtun or Arabic in order to talk with chieftains, maybe killing a bunch of enemy gunmen, maybe blowing up a bridge.

    Whenever there’s a mission with an exterior-reality objective like that, a strong desire to prove your excellence may advance or hinder the mission. A “cheap shot” or a “cop out” will definitely not satisfy your desire for excellence. Such a “cheap shot” might achieve all the objectives of your mission, however.

  2. Well Fucking Said. You just put into words something I’ve been trying to define within myself. Keep your powder dry.

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