Book Reviews

Go To Hopkins & Company Homepage

Go to Executive Times Archives


Go to 2003 Book Review List


The New Culture of Desire: 5 Radical Strategies That Will Change Your Business and Your Life by Melinda Davis


Rating: (Read only if your interest is strong)


Click on title or picture to buy from



Oh O

Melinda Davis’ recent book, The New Culture of Desire, may possibly be the strangest book I’ve read in years. Thanks to something called The Human Desire Project, Davis and her team know way too much about what people want, and the lengths to which they’ll go to get it. Here’s a sample of what to expect: (pp. 79-81)


Peak Imaginational Experience

The supreme, increasingly mainstream manifestation of this new need is the craving we seem to be feeling for achieving what I call the State of O—a kind of transcendence, spiritual or otherwise. It is an experience that goes by many names: the Zone, the Flow, getting our groove back, healing bliss. O is the consummation of our imaginational lives, the experience that makes us feel the most vigorously and successfully alive.

It is our ability to cope and flourish mentally, the reverse of toxic psychic stress, the opposite of losing your mind.

In plain words, O is merely short for optimal state of mind. It is peak interior pleasure, the ultimate ahhhh of the mind. You can get there by running, praying, dancing, chanting, meditating, playing really good golf. Dervishes do it by whirling. Some do it with other rituals, others believe it is as simple as the correct combination of essential oils or fragrances, or the correct dose of chemicals. Some people beat drums. Others insist that achieving O is a skill to be learned at the feet of an exalted master, over time. This ultimate feel-good, peak experience is the orgasmic reward of our imaginational times. Little wonder the possibility of O is looming so large on our radar screens.

In the State of O you are said to lose your sense of being anywhere, and feel a wondrous sense of unity with the universe. You become pure imaginational man or woman—safe and happy in the arms of something divine. Your head becomes a pleasure pad, and not the site of a crash.


The quest for the State of O is not new. What is remarkable is how ex cathedra the quest for O has become, how common in the standard repertory of human pursuits. We are all looking for rapture now, if only to reassure us that we are, in fact, safely away from the edge of oblivion. Or to call a kind of ceasefire in the endless firing off of toxic, and not pleasurable, neurons. An ecstatic man is not an anxious man. A womanin rapture is not depressed. A person in transcendence transcends imaginational mayhem.

The State of O is the new survival must-have. It is the ultimate proof that you are, indeed, alive and kicking in spite of all the madness, that you are not a victim of the imaginational age, but a high-flying achiever.


The State of O As Spiritual Transport

At its most sublime expression, the quest for O is a bona fide holy quest. Folks at this exalted level of awareness sense the tingle of the infinite in all this new interior pressure, and mindfully go about seeking the ultimate benefit in more or less prescribed ways and rituals, ancient and otherwise. This goal is rupture, transcendence, seeing the light of truth, salvation, sukhavati (the "Land of Bliss'' ) epiphany, redemption, seeing the light of the Shekhina (godliness, in kabbalistic thinking), the one great truth, enlightenment, mahasukha (the great light of Mahayana Buddhism), bliss, a state of grace, wisal ("attaining to  the divine in Islamic thinking),  Nirvana being in harmony with the tao, oneness with the divine, seeing the face of God.

In the spiritual realm, the most exalted state of O is a transcendent experience, indeed—a state that the O, as a symbol, communicates with powerful totemic resonances of rich legacy. The O is the symbol of the circle of life itself.

To some, this rings true with the heady ping of a Tibetan bell. The circle is the center, the symbol of wholeness and completion, everything and nothing, a world without end. The circle is infinity—a mark that, paradoxically, represents the absence of marked-off boundaries—that realm in which there are no limits. “I am one with the universe! I am theworld and the world is me!” (May I call your attention to just how powerful the concept of “being beyond boundaries” seems to be in the cultural marketplace these days?  “No limits” is the identity line for Showtime Networks. “No boundaries” is the promise of at least three different corporate voices: the division of Ford Motor Company that brings us the Explorer, the division of Sharp Consumer Electronics that brings us the flat-panel LCD TV, and the division of R- J. Reynolds Tobacco that brings us Winston cigarettes. AT&T's wireless Web service is positioned on the promise of being “Boundless.”) In a series of think-tank sessions about peak experiences, the ultimate sublime state was almost unanimously described as the sensation of flying in boundless space—out of the matrix but magically unafraid.

We can also say that O is short for orgasm. O is in fact the new orgasm. This ultimate pleasure comes to us with no small history of sexual implication. In the Zen Buddhist tradition, among others, O is the sacred union of the male and the female powers, the yin and the yang; in Hindu tradition, the holy copulation of Shakti and Shiva, the KundaUni—theYabYum. (An extraordinary percentage of YabYum search hits on the Internet lead to Amsterdam, where YabYum is the name of "the world's foremost tantric sex club.') The ancient Gnostic tradition presents it as ouroboros, the image of the serpent biting his tail, turning and turning in endless circular triumph over death.

If you’ve been wondering about where marketers get their ideas, look at The New Culture of Desire to find out. If, like me, you think certain desires should be sublimated, take a pass.

Steve Hopkins, January 21, 2003


ã 2003 Hopkins and Company, LLC


The recommendation rating for this book appeared in the February 2003 issue of Executive Times

URL for this review: New Culture of Desire.htm


For Reprint Permission, Contact:

Hopkins & Company, LLC • 723 North Kenilworth Avenue • Oak Park, IL 60302
Phone: 708-466-4650 • Fax: 708-386-8687