Turning-on

by OneTaste Living Library  Sep 3, 2011

If you read my last blog, you’ll resonate with the word turn on, as turn on describes precisely my friend Maria’s relationship to her bike.nnTurn-on is what happens when desire is liberated from our attempts to possess and control, and is let out to play. It’s the impulse you have to dance when you hear music with an infectious beat, or to run outside in short-sleeves during a February thaw. Turn-on is being kept up past your bed time by a book you can’t put down, or a conversation so fascinating you never want it to end. It’s what happens when you actually ride a beloved bike, coasting along with the wind in your hair.nnWhat turn-on desires is not possession, but engagement. What it desires is never just an object, but a partner in that engagement. Even when what we desire is a thing, if we are turned on, we don’t experience the thing as an insensate object. To a skilled mechanic, an engine is almost like a conscious being. It has something like a personality, and repairing it is like engaging in a dialogue with it. To someone who loves to knit, yarn feels almost alive. Every yarn responds differently to the needles, and the knitter’s hand makes many fine adjustments to accommodate what the yarn is communicating to it.nnTurn-on is, in part, a faculty of perception, kind of like 3D glasses. If you are not turned on by something or someone, there is dimension of them that you are unable to see. If you are not at least a little bit in love with someone, you can’t say you really know them.nnIn a TV show about doctors years ago, two interns were in constant conflict. At one point one of them says to the other, “You don’t like me much, do you?” The other replies, “Not yet.” That’s a very turned-on view of the matter. When you turn on to someone, you realize how much about them you were formerly missing. You realize how much potential there is in what you don’t appreciate yet.nnTurn-on is active, and often involves doing something, usually with a certain indifference to the practical outcome. You don’t have anything to gain from completing a crossword or sudoku puzzle, but if puzzles turn you on, you couldn’t care less. Turn-on is content to accomplish something meaningless for the sheer joy of doing it. There is a quality of effortlessness about it, even in the midst of what might appear to be tremendous exertion, because there is no sense of resistance to exertion. Effort is indistinguishable from desire. Your yoke feels easy, your burden light. And while turn-on loves to do things, it is blissfully oblivious to the possibility of failure, disappointment or embarrassment. If it can’t do well at what it loves to do, it is perfectly happy to do it badly. Turn-on sings loudly, even when it is singing off key.nnDon’t be fooled, though, by its seemingly frivolous ways. Nothing could be more vitally important than turn-on. Desire brought us into being and continually draws us back to the source of our being. Having first given us life, it ever afterwards serves as a divining rod, leading us toward that which lives and sustains life, and away from that which is dead and deadening.nnIn a scene from the trailer for the movie Julie and Julia, Julia Child, the wife of a diplomat stationed in Paris, is wondering how to fill her time. Her husband asks her, “What is it that you really like to do?” Before she can think to censor her response, Julia blurts, “Eat.” Her husband replies, “And you’re so good at it!” Coming from a woman who isn’t skinny, the admission of loving to eat is wildly risqué’. Even more startling is the husband’s notion that a person could be talented at eating. Whoever heard of such a thing as being good at enjoyment? But the husband is exactly right.nnTurning on is indeed a talent, and a clue to one’s purpose. What we love enough to do badly, we usually end up learning to do quite well. Our best gifts are to be found in close proximity to our delights. If you are seeking the purpose of your own life, the first and best question to ask is “What turns me on?” As surely as fish feel like swimming and tigers feel like pouncing, what you were created to do is something you feel like doing.nnWhat that funny scene between Julia and her husband also conveys is a kind of trust. Julia trusts her appetite. She doesn’t put it down or put herself down for having too much of it. She trusts herself, and her husband trusts her too. He accepts without question that what excites her is worth getting excited about and, what’s more, is leading her somewhere. Both are coming from an assumption that enjoyment is trustworthy because the world is basically good.nnIf you carry everything this little scene is saying to its ultimate conclusion, it suggests something very like a spiritual path. To desire is an act of faith in both the creator and the created. Our everyday turn-ons, when fully trusted, can become like a trail of breadcrumbs leading us ever deeper into the cosmic turn-on that is their source.nnJulia would probably say I’m going over the top here, that she was just pursuing the perfect recipe for mayonnaise. What would your desire say?