I do what I know I should not, and I fail to do what I know that I should. I am tempted to sin, even though I know it to be sin, and thus both wrong in itself and so also bad for me. Why?
Such is concupiscence: the inclination to sin, indeed literally the strong desire to sin.
If we – even we who have been washed by the waters of Baptism and the Blood of the Lamb from all taint of our Original Sin – know that sin is sinful, why would we desire to sin? Why should there be such a thing as temptation, at all?
In a word, sehnsucht: our deep inveterate inchoate nostalgia for our true homeland, which we have never ourselves visited, wherein all things are right and good, and there is for us at last complete peace, and rest; so, then, completely free action and joyous adventure. All our untoward desires – all our desires that are not toward that homeland and its fulfillment of our true nature – are temptations to some thing or other radically different, nice enough to be sure in its own right but, as inordinate to our proper nature, therefore incompatible with our true blessedness – with our sanctity, with our righteousness, and so with our admission to that Land which is the font of all our insatiable longing toward any subsidiary goods.
We long for that homeland, but it is nowhere on Earth to be found. That does not stop our searching for it, and trying for it, relentlessly: in sex, food, drugs, power, sleep, stupidity, sloth, even hopelessness; in, precisely, “whatever.” Any lesser good might stand for it awhile in our psychic economy, to our eventual dissatisfaction and restlessness. But, the magnetic pull toward the True North of our homeland being obscured by our confusion – which, in turn, is due to the corruption of our nature by sin – we wander aimlessly; so that everything boils down at last to “whatever;” so, at last, to “no.” And, so, at last, to nothingness: to death.
For, not only is it true that not to decide is to decide, but also, not to decide is to decide not. Not to decide is to decide “no.” It is to decide for Hell.
We wander, searching for that homeland, and mistaking her in this or that worldly entertainment. She is in them all somehow a bit present, to be sure; so our mistake is not wholly ill – for, otherwise, none of us would be foolish enough to take it. Nevertheless we stray from the true path, in casting for signs of her, and not for our true quarry: the Pearl herself.
The Hindus then are correct that all human suffering stems from desire. But they err in concluding that suffering arises from desire as such. Rather, it comes from desire misdirected; from desire for the wrong thing; from desire mistaken. An example is not far to seek: we hunger, and rather than preparing a hearty meal, we grab a candy bar.
We do the same thing, all the time, with life as such. Life is for and toward the enjoyment and glorification of God. All other goods are properly subsidiary to that purpose, and as meet thereto so contribute to its fulfillment. But we repeatedly err, mistaking some subsidiary good for the Good himself, its origin and reason, and indeed its very goodness. So we glorify – we worship, and serve – some subsidiary good, rather than that Reason of all good. So we stray, and err, and fall eventually over some precipice into abyssal darkness.
So, here’s the thing: to the extent that you are muddling about with this or that proximal purpose here below as if it were important at the last, you are cheating your basic, ultimate, and highest purpose, which is to get yourself back Home.
Turn your nose toward your Father’s House. All the stench of your other, former objects of desire shall then trail behind you, no longer binding you, but slowly, bit by bit, washing off under the relentless pressure of the wild weathersome trail you pursue to the sublime High Place you have always sought, where you might encounter the Most Real, and so enter his kingdom, which is to you as his liegeman and vassal your own and personal royal realm.
Get on homeward, then, and never mind all this other stuff. Indeed, kick the dust of it off thy sandals, and get thee up into the High Mountain.