A desire can be a vague wish, a sharp craving, a steadfast longing, a helpless obsession. It can signal an absence or a presence, a need or a commitment, an ideal or an impossibility. The root of the word “desire” links it to consider and to terms of investigation and augury, thereby reminding us that desire is often less what we feel than what we think about what we feel. And the still deeper root of the word links it to star and shine, as if our desires, and bright centers of our being, were also like the fixed fates in the heavens, determining the course of our lives. Indeed, our mundane experience of desire often coincides with this sense of something beyond our control, of something confusing, something driving us beyond the bounds of habit or reason. It is the heart of our hearts, the very stuff of the self. Desire explodes past borders of time or law. It drifts through veils of propriety. It cannot be confined by social expectations or strictures.
Love is something else again. As mysterious as are the ways of desire, and as disconcerting its effects, love is desire raised to a higher power. It can be as consuming as desire, but it lasts longer. Love is the quality of attention we pay to things. Love is both the shrine and the idol. Love is what we make of other people, and what they make of us. It can be as dispassionate as a Zen monk’s, or as wasting as the Romantic hero’s.
– J. D. McClatchy