March 7, 2012

D is for desire

Posted in Being Kemetic, Pagan Blog Project 2012, Thoughts and Reflections at 9:02 am by

Follow your desires as long as you live and do not perform more than is ordered; do not lessen the time of following your desires, for wasting time is an abomination to your ka.

— from the Maxims of Ptahhotep
(translation from one of the wehemu of Hekatawy I)

Bast keeps wanting me to write about desire. In fact, that’s part of why it’s taken me so long to get around to beginning the “D”s — I couldn’t quite figure out what to say. But let’s see what I can make of this.

One thing about the culture of ancient Kemet is that it was very life-affirming, very much about enjoying the gifts of the here and now. The popular conception is that it was a culture obsessed with death, but the truth is that they loved life so much that they wanted to ensure its continuance after the khat went still and the Unseen bodies departed into the Duat. And on the other side, in the Field of Reeds, life was imagined to continue much as it did in this world, with work and play, food and drink, beauty and love.

In general, there’s no tendency toward renouncing worldly desires in favor of spiritual enlightenment — moderation is certainly recommended in the wisdom texts, but not a rejection of the impulse to have, to experience, to enjoy. In the quote at the top of this entry, Ptahhotep instructs us not to work too hard, so as to have enough time in each day to pursue the things we long for. Quite different from the Protestant work ethic! He goes on to say that riches have worth only in that they give us the means to achieve our desires.

So what do I desire? This is the tricky part, and probably what held me up for so long. There are so many things I want to do, to accomplish or experience, but they flicker past, here and gone in an instant, to be replaced by something new. There’s so much I want to revel in, to celebrate, but the days pass by in a whirl, and that window of time for appreciation is often gone before I know it.

But desire is not necessarily whatever catches me in the moment. Merriam-Webster’s notes that “desire,” in distinction from its synonyms, “stresses strength of feeling and often implies a strong intention or aim.” Desire is the deep current of the river pushing toward the sea, pulling the boats along the trail of its shining wake. And if I look through the surface glitter of bright attractions and distractions, I can find the steady underlying flows that unite them.

So my desire is:

    – to create beauty; to be still and drink in beauty; to live in beauty
    – to be near my Mother, to serve Her, to dwell in Her presence
    – to dance with words, and to draw others into that dance
    – to nurture our community’s space in the midst of the culture-at-large
    – to enjoy my days, filled with all the things that feed my ka

None of these desires are out of reach; none require wealth or power or fame. All they need is a little slowing down, a little focusing in to hear the call and to be with it. All they need is the good use of my time.

Georgia O’Keeffe once wrote, “Nobody sees a flower — really — it is so small it takes time — we haven’t time — and to see takes time, like to have a friend takes time.”

Like to love takes time. Like the fulfillment of desire takes time.

In one of my favorite quotes, which I keep on my desk at work, Megegi of Thebes shares a sentiment very much like that of Ptahhotep. “I have not taken time away from the day,” he says; “I have done no damage to a beautiful hour.”

In each beautiful hour, may I remember to follow the desires of my heart.

What do you desire?


  1. Sobeq said,

    March 7, 2012 at 10:13 am

    This is beautiful, and it has given me so much food for thought – thank you for sharing it! :) I may have to keep that quote from Megegi of Thebes near me as well.

  2. Shefyt said,

    March 7, 2012 at 12:18 pm

    Sobeq, you’re very welcome! ^_^ I found that quote in Jan Assman’s The Mind of Egypt; if this link works, you’ll be able to see the rest of the inscription. I’m not entirely sure, but I think this text is actually on display at the Met — I’ve seen a piece there from Megegi of Thebes. We’ll have to pay a visit on our next trip!

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