"Many people these days complain that they do not feel fully alive — that they do not feel sufficiently attached to the world or to their own lives. They complain about a kind of deadness of soul or a dreadful sluggishness of spirit. They go through the motions of life and may even accomplish a great deal in terms of professional ambitions or solid relationships, yet something is missing. There is an underlying futility to their existence that makes them feel 'fake' or not fully 'present' in their skins. Much of the time, they sense that the edition of themselves they display to the world and even to themselves is a hollow shell, front, mask, or cloak that may sometimes even dazzle but does not ultimately bring fulfillment. Sometimes this feeling of unreality is physical, having to do with a profound disconnection from one's bodily actuality. Other times it is psychological and emotional so that even though one may have many thoughts and sentiments, these thoughts and sentiments seem to be separated from the self by some sort of a translucent barrier. They are there, but they are not linked to any real passion. They do not feed the spirit, but rather alienate the self from an authenticity of experience.

"This disconnect makes it all the more noteworthy that so many of us are accustomed to approach our lives with a sensible practicality stripped of the disorienting (irrational) impact of desire. We are trained to mistrust desire not only in those areas of life, such as science and justice, where such mistrust is prudent, but also in those, such as our private existential struggles, where doing so can only sap our life force. Even when we recognize — as many of us do — that desire is the seed of creativity, that without desire life loses much of its vigor, our passion tends to make us nervous. We know that the more space we give to desire, the less stable our lives tend to be. And because we associate instability with trepidation, and trepidation with unhappiness, we are often willing to go to great lengths to ensure that our realism trumps our ardor. There is no doubt that there are times when this is the right course of action, when rational deliberation prevents us from making mistakes that would be too costly. And it can even keep us from hurting those we love. Yet there is also a considerable downside — namely, that the attempt to smother desire can rob us of our biggest resource for fostering lives that feel multidimensional and thus worth living: it can make it impossible for us to hear the call of our character."