Infinite Loop 30: Digitized Lust

Augustine said that ‘lust’ was “inordinate desire.’ He was half-right. Lust is defined not by kind but by degree: It is reducible to desire, it is a desire. But what makes one desire lust and the other not? I think it is a question of degrees, not kind. It is merely a normal desire taken to an extreme degree. Instead of ‘inordinate’ I prefer to speak of ‘unbridled’ desire. That is lust. Lust is desire that runs loose like an ill-mannered child in public. Lust is certainly a symptom of that 20th century ‘mental illness’ psychologists call ‘borderline personality.’ Though some say it has nothing to do with borders or lines, one thing is sure – the borderline is extreme in all he does; there are no limits, no borders to what he can do; he is intense in everything. The neurotic will think about stealing your car; the psychotic will steal it and drive it home’ the borderline will steal it and drive it across country. He can’t just have half or a little, he must have all. He would not buy a single Mozart symphony but the complete symphonies. I know, that’s what I did the other day.

Yes, lust is defined by degrees not kind. I might even say that lust is ‘borderline desire.’ And just like any mental state it is generic. That is, you can lust after many kind of things; there are as many ways to lust as there are humans. There is food-lust, work-lust, sex-lust, Apple-lust, lazy-lust, music-lust and on and on. Yet because of this multiplicity it is sometimes hard to see how distinct lusts are in fact tied together, made of whole cloth as it were. There are different species of lust, but they are still of the same genera. To wit…

I was at a Barnes and Noble at 3PM in Chicago. I saw a complete set of Mozart’s symphonies I had been wanting for some time. So I bought it. I am in fact collecting the whole works of Mozart; if it were not for Mozart I am not sure I could face some days; he gives me courage, delight, inspiration, fun. His light and happy melodies born of an undying pathos have saved me many a day. You see, I have trouble converting my sadness, or whatever it is, into something beautiful, which is basically what an artist does – converts pathos into beauty, can see beauty where others see only pain, because of this conversion process, this metamorphosing it into something new. Mozart does it for me.

(Oh, and then there’s Bruckner. Don’t get me started on Bruckner! His Adagios will slay you, cut you right in half. Bruckner was not a physically attractive man, and often doubted his talents (standing as he did in Wagner’s shadow). Do you not think there were times he was in despair and felt misunderstood? But he converted that into wonderful music. The Agagio of the 7th Symphony (he heard of Wagner’s death midway through writing it and so added some ‘Wagner Horns’ in the middle credenza) will tear your heart out, and anyone who does not fight back tears when listening to the Adagio of the final and unfinished 9th symphony could hardly be counted as human.)

Photo: Fireworks
Celebrating the 4th in Chicago’s Grant Park

This complete set of Mozart’s symphonies was expensive, no doubt. But the desire was so strong it would have been vain to fight it. IT simply took my will with it. Lust is so indicative of a weak will! I just gave in.

Now fast-forward to downtown Chicago at 7PM at the new Apple Store on the Miracle mile. Just seeing the Apple logo was enough to get my heart beating. I thought my chest was going to explode. My favorite city and my favorite computer in the same place!!! And I was there. Should I get that new Powerbook I’ve been wanting?

My wife had her injured iPod with her and took it to the Genius Bar to see what might be done with it. His diagnosis? “Apple will charge you $250 to just look at it, so buy a new one.” Now THAT was stroke of genius! The lust was swelling up in me, dripping off my chin and nose like sweat. What the Genius had done is given to the Appleluster what he seeks 24/7, what he prays for every minute – an excuse to buy. An excuse is a justification to buy, to indulge the lust, to satisfy the desire, to poke a hole in my body and let the pressure out. So I said, “OK, I get educator’s discount here, so let’s get a new iPod.” I have a 10 GB one. I would get a new one, and hand the 10 GB one to my wife so she could have a new one. I asked her what she thought. The answer was amazing – self-deception? No. But pure self-justification and talking us into by transforming a luxury into a need, “Well, I do really use it a lot when I exercise.” Excuse number 2!! IT was the obvious solution. The jump in logic with this way of thinking, the chasm between premises and conclusion, was so great it only made sense on an astronomical scale of measurement. As Bertrand Russell said, “The worse your logic the more interesting your conclusions are.” Got that right, Berty. Talk about a sin qua non! It is AppleLUST not AppleREASON after all. I mean rationality is not the motivating faculty here.

Photo: Chicago nightscape
Chicago at night

(BTW: advertising seeks to build excuses for us, right? It tries to latch on to our vanity and make a necessity out of luxury, or a want into need, however you want to state it. Somehow, some way, this is the message. Think about it…)

Meanwhile I was looking at iSights and asked how I could connect it to an iMac since I had only seen it with a Powerbook adapter. “Oh, it comes with three adapters: one for the portable. One for iMacs and one for Studio Displays” the salesperson said.

Excuse number 3!! Served up on a silver platter to me.

Back to the iPod. We got a case for it. Why? It was nothing but basic, sensual primitive lust – because the leather smelled good and looked good. Period. In reality Applelust needs no reasons at all. They are merely psycho-social rationalizations so that we can live with ourselves and hope that others will see us as rational. That’s all. That is, the excuses I had had been accumulating were meant to fool me and others watching me (like my wife).

Now back to the complete Mozart symphonies. Recall that I am writing about the generic nature of lust and who that can keep us from seeing that many diverse kinds of lust are really tied together. I very quickly saw, as I was at the check-out counter, that my Applelust, more specifically, my iPod-lust, was affecting my Mozart-lust and visa versa. It’s this ‘digital life’ thing you see. It’s all connected just like iLife. Not only did I have Mozart’s complete symphonies, I could have them with me at anytime at any place as I wished now that I had the new iPod. Whart good is an iPod without music anyway? Good grief, Apple is even getting me to believe that Mozart is no good without an iPod! Yet I bring my love of Mozart to the table, into the store. All the Apple Store did was give me a new way to satisfy my Mozart-lust. So in a way my Mozart-lust caused my Applelust. It was two-way caution plain and simply, just like dualistic, Cartesian theories of the mind-body problem.

So what did I learn from all this? Nothing. Goethe said theory is grey but reality is green. So what? My Applelust keeps growing with every Mozartian sonority I hear; and my dependence on Mozart keeps me looking for ways to keep him close at hand all the time, just in case I need him. You never know. What did I learn? I learned what this ‘iLife’ and “digital lifestyle’ means for me. Just think of those who had to hear a Beethoven symphony once, live, there were no records or CDs or MP3s, and the only thing they had was memory. Now, I have no use of my memory in some respects, or none that I can recall anyway. I can take this beauty with me everywhere now. I can listen to Bob Dylan as I walk the busy streets of Chicago and see firsthand all his warnings. Does all of this make life more enjoyable? Does walking around with phones stuffed in my ears bring me closer to Nature, closer to the really real? Does blocking my senses allow me to engage my world more handily? Not sure, but it sure leads me to think that soon we will be talking about a ‘digital world’ not just a digital life. For our technology in many ways changes how we view reality, and the digicality is what’s really real now.

Look out, you may be digitized next.

A Look at the new Apple Store in Chicago on North Michigan Avenue

Photo: Entrance
Looking down the stairs at the entrance. What a gorgeous store.
Photo: Software Selection
As you would expect, Mac software selection is excellent.
Photo: iSight front
Our first in person view of the iSight.
Photo: iSight side
The iSight from a different angle.
Photo: Dave with bags
And of course, you can’t visit an Apple Store without buying something…
Photo: Dave with iPod and iSight
Ah yes, a new iPod and the iSight.

David K. Schultz


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