"Do What You Want" -- On Choosing the Desires We Already Have

"Do what you what you want 'till you don't want it any more / Remember who you really are"

Amy Lee of Evanescence belts these lyrics in "Do What You Want." (The video features many great New York City shots of subway stations, the Brooklyn Bridge, and more. If you've ever made your way through NYC subway stations or across the bridge in the wee hours, this will ring a bell.) Check it out here:

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Theologically speaking, Evanescence is recommending an ancient art of spiritual exercise: rifle through your desires, expressing each in turn, until the ones that float on their own, and can support you over time, will stay at the surface and endure. That is how to "remember who you really are," which is at once "in" this world and "beyond" this world.

One art of existence that has maintained this wisdom, contrary to academic theology's reluctance to engage the experience of actual exercises, is spiritual direction. Dr. Janet Ruffing, a leading scholar and practitioner of spiritual direction, lets us into this older, practice-based way of treating desires: She writes that in and through spiritual direction, “We keep on expressing our real desires until they are fulfilled, until they are changed, or until we are convinced God is responding to us.” (Janet Ruffing, Spiritual Direction: Beyond the Beginnings (Paulist Press, 2000), pp. 18-19).

In the unfolding of these desires, the spiritual director’s work is to help the directee hold open experience for God, and so to learn to practice God’s presence -- known in and through the desires that endure, feed us, and make us people we are proud of being.

Amy Lee of Evanescence: thank you for making good use of this spiritual direction tradition. "Do What You Want" means much more than a simplistic "Do Whatever You Want." It means "Do What You Really Want." Or as Ruffing writes, “Claiming our wanting, becoming conscious and choosing it, holds us open to God’s desiring and ours becoming one.” (p. 27)

How does music help you claim that wanting?

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
Amy Ho-Ohn
5 years 6 months ago
Music is the greatest witness to the existence of God and His beneficent love for mankind. If you made a list of the fifty greatest pieces of music ever composed, the vast majority of the list (anybody's list) would be liturgical and paraliturgical music. (The rest would be mostly Wagnerian opera.)

Music is also the most eloquent evangelist. I estimate half of every Catholic congregation is ambivalent about the doctrines of the faith. But as long as the organ is played halfway competently, they won't stop stop coming. Ninety percent of the Eucharist happens when the organist, choir and congregation sing the prayers and hymns; the priest who waves his hands around and preens himself on his ontological exaltedness is like a real estate agent who signs a bill of sale then thinks he should get credit for building the house.

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