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From Love to Lust: How long does it take?|
by Frank Trinh
When Vietnamese people talk about ‘tìnhdục’ (‘sex’) they euphemistically describe physical desire as ‘the joy of a cloud-and-rain affair’, or ‘the joy of yang-and-yin harmony’, or more colloquially ‘the joy of eating meat’, or ‘the joy of making love’. They do not analyse the semantic meaning of the term ‘tìnhdục’ in hair-splitting fashion as being combined of ‘tình’, meaning ‘love’ and ‘duc’, meaning ‘lust’.
In this small talk, I would like to take readers to a place where you embark on a journey starting with ‘love’ and arriving at ‘lust’. This I will do via means of a few humble lines of poetry to entertain you, and to while the time away.
It is undeniable that ‘love’ has the capacity to be timeless and spaceless. ‘Love’ is everywhere. It wafts all over the universe. ‘Love’ has been around since days of yore right up to the present date. Regardless of who we are, be we the offspring of princes or of paupers, we share the same feeling when we fall in or are besotted by ‘love’.
‘Love’ can blossom through an accidental encounter. ‘Love’ can grow through constant close contact, or through being long-time acquaintances in the same way as ‘when you put fire near straw, it will eventually ignite’. But once you long for affection from a complete stranger and you harbour a deep secret love for that person, you are liable to experience a profound loneliness and longing when you are apart:
Without you my heart is empty,
Without you my soul is lamenting.
However, to compensate for this longing, the lover cannot but help feel happy at heart when the loved one is again present:
With you by my side, my heart is rejoicing.
And trembles with love, hour upon hour.
When lovers are together, the hours and minutes fly by. ‘Love’ has a chance to blossom and lovers develop a close intimacy:
With you by my side, time stands still.
And my love for you knows no bounds.
Your lover’s mere presence makes the trees and flowers spring to life, and the senses become alert to the sights and sounds of all living creatures:
With you by my side, life is a garden brimming with flowers,
Around me, beautiful songs, to flood my joyful hours.
When it comes to the time ‘I am the wind and you are the clouds’, then ‘from that day on, I will have your love.’ Our love will float ever upwards, intermingled with the wind, the sky, the moon and the clouds:
Our love wafts in its flight, in the clouds and on the breeze,
Mingled with the moon and the glorious sunlight.
Whilst ‘love’ is in such good season, the surrounding scenery joins in the jubilation. People everywhere also enjoy the peace, the quiet, and the serenity, and the whole universe is content to join in harmony with this feeling:
Oh Clouds! With your colours that make my hear dance!
Oh Sol! With your beams of wondrous radiance!
Oh joyful bliss! Endless emptiness! Peaceful universe!
In the quiet eternity of darkness, in the bleak coldness of Winter, lovers cling to each other, not for warmth, but:
The blanket of the night is falling,
As I lullaby you, my beloved, to sleep,
On a deep Winter’s evening,
Full of endless emptiness…
The lover tries to hold on to the serenity of the night, stroking his beloved’s hand and secretly savouring the sight of her closing her drowsy eyelids and of her arms lazily falling, quietly bidding her sweet dreams as she falls into a sound sleep:
Mm…m…m. Mmm. Mmm…
Lay your sleepy head on my waiting shoulder.
Your flirting hands entwined in mine,
Your arms still and slumberous….
When your lover is on cloud nine, then the words of a final lullaby would sing of beautiful wishes soaring heavenwards and leaving all earthly things behind:
Sleep, sleep, my lover, and dream celestial dances,
Sleep, sleep, my lover, and dream of Paradise…
When ‘love’ is like ripened fruit, when arms, shoulders and cheeks are entwined, when the fire of love burns bright and desires sets the soul ablaze, then ‘love’ hurriedly takes flight, and ‘lust’ takes over, so that lovers may embrace each other fully:
Kissing you, your soft sweet lips,
Kissing you, your full pouting lips…
Lips upon lips, intermingling and never stopping:
Warmly, passionately, I kissed you,
Unceasingly, restlessly, I kissed you….
After this rain of kisses, eager and never ceasing, a wonderful feeling of euphoria exists when the spirit soars and flies heavenwards:
My sweetheart do you know why
My soul is soaring high in the sky?
But the ‘fire of lust’ doesn’t come just once, nor does the ‘fire of love’ take wings and fly away. When desire is so strong, then it will come again and again, and as mere human beings, we will eventually succumb to the lure of that desire:
Your lips are full-blown and red,
Your heart envelops me with thought unsaid.
To you, my love I have expressed,
Our lips then cling together in their quest…
For the man, he thinks of the butterfly, symbolising the female genitalia; for the girl, she embraces the thoughts of the bird, symbolising the male genitalia:
A man’s love flies in the direction of the butterfly,
A woman’s passion flies in the direction of the bird…
The question is now raised as to whether ‘love’ definitely comes before ‘lust’ or not. If the issue of procreation, as advocated by Charles Darwin, is to be considered, then ‘lust’ must come first. So far as other anthropologists are concerned, Helen Fisher, author of the book entitled: “Anatomy of Love: The Natural History of Monogamy, Adultery and Divorce”, wrote that love is innate in human beings and is there from the beginning of life, just as are feelings of anger and fear. It is not an imaginary product, originating from the social and cultural environment, as stated by psychologist Lawrence Casler in his book: “Is Marriage Necessary?”.
Generally speaking, when Vietnamese people label someone as ‘dâm''‘sex-mad’) or as ‘dê’ (lit. ‘goat’, meaning ‘lecherous’), they only refer to the negative meaning of the word. They show criticism of that person, because they do not love or like them, and they do not have warm feelings towards them. They are not happy with them or their behaviour, so they do not agree with them. They are not enamoured of their overtures towards themselves. But the same behaviour coming from someone they like or love, instils warm feelings in them. It brings forth something, which has a completely different meaning. It could mean ‘romantic’, ‘sexy’, affectionate’, ‘caring’. So ‘dâm’, ‘dê, or for that matter ‘35’ (number showing a goat in the Vietnamese ‘lotto’) is not necessarily bad, for it could mean that the person is deserving of affection. Who knows? Vietnamese people are probably keen on Darwinism, so in their popular literature one does not find condemnation of ‘the original sin’:
Who dare says that lust is synonymous with obscenity?
Without lust, what on earth would bring decent people into the world?
Then from ‘love’ to ‘lust’, how many years does it take? It all depends. In olden days, between Kim Trong and Thuy Kieu, the main characters in Nguyen Du’s epic poem The Tale of Kieu, starting from their first to their last encounter, it encompassed a separation of 15 years. ‘Love’ stood still; therefore ‘love’ still remained as ‘love’, and not ‘lust’. But between Kim Trong and Thuy Van, Kieu’s sister, the way to ‘lust’ took a shortcut, because ‘lust’ does not go hand-in-hand with ‘love’. It often does not take long, in terms of years.
In modern times, Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky took a shortcut to ‘lust’, and ‘cut to the chase’. Monica did not have to ‘anxiously cross the garden by herself in the dead of night’ as Kieu did, but she eagerly went down the corridors to reach the Oval Office in the bright daylight.
But as Americans often say: ‘It takes two to tango’, so the fact that she came to him, points to the fact that there was a ‘push-pull factor’. That is to say, her ‘desire for lust’ drove her; ‘his weakness for beauty’ drove him. As for Monica, ‘love’ did come after ‘lust’, but for Bill, his ‘lust’ perhaps stopped short of ‘love’.
But then, what can we expect from a guy who was famous for wearing his trousers merely to keep his knees warm?
by Frank Trinh
Sydney, March 2002
Click here to read the Vietnamese version
dchph vào ngày Dec.8.2002, 17:04 pm