Lust for Life
A House Painter and the Importance of Passionate Living
Could it be that “lust” is one of the good seven deadly sins? Possibly the only one that is?
I love the word lust because the word brims with life. Now, when I talk about lust I’m not talking about sexual craving of another’s body, I’m taking about passion . Not that carnal craving is at all that bad. It’s that craving, after all, that brought each one of us into this world. But I opt for the
definition of lust:…”a passionate or overmastering desire or craving.”
as soundtrack material to hawk their wares. True, the song is catchy, but I believe it’s the title that grabs the imagination.
Know what I want in my life? People who feel lust, people who don’t shy away from passion. Sadly, I don’t come across them that often. There used to be a house painter in my neighborhood who sported a shocking mane of spiked platinum blonde hair, and a brassy swagger. It seemed one summer he painted nearly every building in town.
The sight of this man on a ladder or with a cigarette dangling from his mouth was cause for gossip and curiosity. Why? Because he had a lust for life. Sadly, no one, including me, knew his name. So he was nicknamed “Lust for Life.” I used to marvel at the gusto this man had while painting houses eight hours a day, sometimes in bad weather. And never a frown over Lust for Life’s face.
One day, as I was manning a barbecue grill at a neighborhood gathering, Lust for Life walked up to me in between painting jobs. I offered him a hot dog. He declined. He just wanted a chat. And he was better spoken and more polite than most of the faculty that live in the small insular college town I live in. I must confess I envied Lust for Life. In comparison I felt equivocal and lifeless.
Three months later I saw Lust for Life again. His hair
had lost it’s intense platinum sheen, and he was walking with a limp. The cigarette was still dangling from his lips, but the swagger was gone. It was like seeing a friend after a long absence and realizing he was dying. All I wanted to do was ask him what had happened. But I had neither the craving nor the passion to risk it. I like to think that he would have asked me.
I never saw Lust for Life again after that, but he remains my standard for living a passionate life. More importantly, he taught me that passion is never assured. So how could I think of lust as a sin when its absence leaves us with something dark and lifeless?