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Concupiscentia – Word For The Ages

The problem with being a dictionary worm – reading sequentially the words from the unabridged Oxford volume cover to cover – is that it misses all the words added or changed over the time it took to read it from cover to cover, leaving knowledge incomplete, perhaps the call of a perfectionist who simply missed a page somewhere.

gush1One overlooked word was concupiscence. I first heard it when a colleague was accused by someone else for making it up, trying to imply that they were stupid for not knowing it. I was astonished that I had no clue what it meant either except that the prefix “con” means “with”.

I embarked on a search and what I discovered is a word with many more shades than revealed by the dictionary, including a theological schism profound to fundamental philosophical belief. Con*cu*pis*cence,  n.  1- sexual desire, lust. 2- ardent, usually sensuous, longing.

Christian theology defines it as the selfish human desire for an object, person or experience, and yet Catholics and Protestants have conflicting ideas.  For Catholics, in its widest sense, “concupiscence is any yearning of the soul for good; in its strict and specific sense, it means a desire of the lower appetite contrary to reason.” For Protestants, “concupiscence refers to what they understand as the orientation, inclination or innate tendency of human beings to do evil.”  The word is derived from the Latin word concupiscentia meaning “a desire for worldly things.”

A want for anything corporeal is implied as being innately selfish, according to biblical interpretation. It can also be distracting, especially with original sin and guilt floating around overhead as the search for the inner divine nature consumes philosophy and theology alike, while science aims to quantify or repudiate it all in a neat reproducible package.

On the other hand, if the difference between selfishness and selflessness is understood, earthly desires would not be the temptations they have historically been, suggesting the middle path, where good and evil balances each other is the best place to be, since the desire for good can also be selfish depending on what one considers good.

A sole carried by the body
Heart aching deep to the call
Desire that draws one closer
Into a forest of want
Playing to its hum
Is anything ever enough?
Another barrier
The immoral soul!


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