One chilly morning, I was sitting at a table outside the coffee shop when Tim straggled up and asked if he could sit with me. I told him he was welcome to sit at my table, even though I didn’t know him. He looked cold, isolated, and tired.
Tim mentioned he’d seen me the other day with some friends of his, and that’s why he was introducing himself to me. I offered him some coffee. He looked about 17 or so. Tall and lanky, and dressed like a punk. His voice was gentle.
We talked about trivial things for a while. The day began to warm and Tim’s spirits picked up a bit, although he was nursing his coffee like it was the last cup he expected to see on this earth.
Then, at some point that morning, he asked me what was wrong with lust. I can’t recall what, if anything, prompted him to ask that question, but I remember his voice sounded serious — as if he’d been thinking about it — and so I decided to treat his question with care.
“There’s not much wrong with it that I know of”, I said after a moment’s reflection, “Has someone been telling you there is?”
“I’ve heard it all of my life”, Tim said. “But I don’t understand. Lust is natural, isn’t it? And if it’s natural, what can be wrong with it? I just don’t understand how anything natural can be so wrong.”
“Ummm humm”, I nodded. “Are there any other reasons you think nothing’s wrong with lust?”
“No, that’s about it. Well, maybe… if it weren’t for lust, none of us would be here, would we? If we didn’t want sex, why would we reproduce? Who’d go to the trouble?”
“I see your point, I said, and I agree with you there’s both nothing wrong with lust, and that lust is even necessary. But do you think it’s possible to have too much lust?”
“You see,” I went on, “nowadays, the word ‘lust’ means almost the same thing as the words ‘sexual desire’, but an older meaning of the word might be closer to ‘sexual greed’. Of course, there’s a difference between sexual desire and sexual greed, just as there’s a difference between hunger and gluttony. So, do you see a difference between the two — sexual desire and sexual greed?”
“I’m not meaning to argue,” he said, “but is there that much difference? You can want sex real bad, but what harm is it if you do?”
“Good question! There’s no harm in how much you want sex. But I’m trying to get at something a little different than that. It’s like this: There’s no harm in how hungry you are. But there’s harm in being greedy for food. There’s no harm in how horny you are, but is there harm in being greedy for sex? Can you even be greedy for sex — not just desiring sex, but actually greedy for it? I wonder.”
“What would happen if you were greedy?” Tim asked.
“I think sex would become your focus in life. It would be all — or almost all — that mattered to you. You’d make everything secondary to it. Maybe you wouldn’t even see a woman as a person. You’d just think about having sex with her, and she’d be nothing more than a sex object to you.”
“I don’t want to change the subject, but do you have the time?” Tim asked.
I looked at my watch. It was 10:30. “Do you have to be somewhere?”
“The Soup Kitchen opens at 11:00. Likely, there’s a line by now.”
I could see he was anxious to eat, so I didn’t press the subject. In a short while we wrapped things up with pleasantries, and Tim left for his meal.
After that introduction, Tim and I became friends, and I soon forgot all about the morning we met. But Tim didn’t forget. He reminded me of our conversation some years later, and it was only then that I learned why he’d looked so cold and tired that morning.
Tim had been homeless in those days, and he’d spent the night before our conversation sleeping behind the coffee shop in its dumpster.
The resilience of youth is amazing. A seventeen year old can sleep in a dumpster, wake up cold and tired. Yet, instead of becoming morose from that hardship, he feels he’s having an adventure. And, instead of complaining about it to the first person he meets the next day, he wants only to talk about desire!
Should we thank testosterone for that?