Lent and Lust

What is it about the thing that is forbidden, that makes it even more attractive? More attractive to the point of obsession, often. During Lent in Greece one is supposed to abstain from all bodily pleasures, in order to focus on spiritual things and prepare for the resurrection of Christ, symbolically and internally. For the life of me, I never understood that logic. How can abstaining from something makes you forget about it? 

I remember as a child, during that one week of the year when we had to fast, forbidden foods like milk or meat was all I could think about. There was no concentration on my inner soul, there was just concentration on the thing that I could not have. It turned into the point of obsession, a void that I tried to fill with all the other foods that were allowed. It was not bodily hunger, there are many things in this word one can actually eat and feel full. It was the same feeling of hunger, but this time it was coming from another place. And it wasn’t that the foods I could actually eat were foreign to me or particularly unappetising. Many of the foods we ate during that week of fasting were foods my mum prepared throughout the year, like comforting vegetables, stewed in tomato sauce and olive oil. And some fasting foods, I actually really liked, like loukoumades (the greek version of dougnuts soaked in honey) which as a teenager I discovered that they were actually allowed. Of course, that year I ate something like 16 in one go, and nearly fell sick, so since then have been avoiding them. But my inability to exert self control is another story. Or maybe somehow links here. 

There must be some sort of fairy dust sprinkled on all these things that one is not supposed to desire, or have. And as an adult, when I occasionally chose to abstain from things, or people, I often found myself desiring such things-or people. And it’s that specific hunger for the thing that you cannot have that becomes an obsession, to the point when I often think that maybe, for my own sanity, it would make more sense to just devour the damn thing, suffer the whatever guilt the forbidden thing carries and be liberated from this torture. 

And that in principle works fine as a plan, as I find guilt to be a generally useless feeling, but only as long as one has access to the forbidden thing. When you don’t and have no control over it, what does one do? Say, for example, you’ve cleared your fridge for Lent and the shops are closed. You end up, like a lion in a cage, walking in and out of the kitchen thinking about that bloody piece of red meat you so much crave. You feel powerless, and sometimes you realised that there is something slightly masochistic about the whole thing. 

As I go back to the fridge, again and again, hoping that if I open it now, a bloody piece of steak will appear-but it doesn’t of course, I wonder why the hell can’t I be satisfied with the things that are actually there, and what is it that makes this object of forbidden desire so attractive. So attractive that I know that I will spend many days and many nights thinking just that. To the point where the object itself will cease to be that thing, and just become an obsession, some intangible feeling, disassociated from its original tangible thing. And as this disassociation happens, it ceases to be about the bloody red steak - or the person. It becomes about the obsession itself and the need to fill a void that I didn’t know I had. Because deep down I know, it’s not about the object of desire itself, it’s about desiring it and not being able to have it. That is what I am now obsessed about.


  1. Cravings for food and beyond are wonderfully contemplated in this article.


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