The major religions and philosophies generally advocate that people need to knock off all the desiring – that it is desiring and its pals coveting, wanting, and greed (greeding?) that cause us so much misery. That, and keep us from attaining higher states of consciousness.
As a creature of wants and desires, I’ve given this quite a bit of thought. And it bugs me. Why? Because to be human is to desire. Even if someone is so evolved they no longer succumb to the impulses of the flesh – they don’t need sexy time – and they’re content to subsist on next to nothing in terms of money and material goods, they still will have human needs for food and companionship. Oh, you could argue that the evolved person just eats rice and forgoes shrimp cocktail and frozen gelato, but even that doesn’t work, because variety is needed to satisfy nutrition and sustain life.
And the companionship part… sure, there are people who choose to live in isolation, and others that vow silence, but these are the exceptions. Even people who avoid others often secretly, deeply, need human interaction and they’ll pay the price for its absence. Further, shunning and solitary confinement are the grievous punishments they are because we humans so need that connection.
What I’ll concede is that desiring has a way of feeding on itself. You get one of something, them you want two or a bigger something. I’m going to paraphrase this old idea loosely, the one that says the man with no feet wants feet; the man with feet wants a pair of shoes; the man with a pair of shoes wants two pairs of shoes; and so on like that (I’m pretty sure I don’t have it exact, but that’s the general idea). Get one need met and another pops up. Why, life is one long, drawn-out game of Whack-A-Need! Git me a mallet, by gum.
I just need to rest a minute. I want to swim in the ocean. I want those people to shut the hell up already. I want more money. I want to run my hands across that man’s shoulders. I want a chocolate-iced donut with cream filling. I want a nice, worry-free retirement. I want these aches and pains to go away. I want those dogs to stop barking. I want a bowl of popcorn and a DVD. I need to sleep for two days. I want this traffic to start moving before my head explodes. I want all the cellphones to go back to where they came from. I want the neighbor to go smoke somewhere else. I want to be somewhere beautiful in nature. I want more closet space. I want a microwave that has a nice old-fashioned bell and not an insanity-inducing horrid long whining digital buzzer. I want cute tie-up ankle boots. I want heat. I want air conditioning. I just want a shower. I want my hair to look right every day. I want a really good book to read and get lost in. I want to never hear anything more about crime, murders, violence, wars, and terrible sickness again. I want to live without fear. I just need to get over this cold. I want pasta and garlic bread. I want people to act right. I want decent customer service. I need a hug. I want a break. I want to eat breakfast in a real diner, not some corporation’s idea of a diner. I want my writing published. I need more security. I want a big seafood feast. I want sane, non-creepy landlords. I want leggings that don’t pill and sag. I want it to be sunny. I want to breathe clean air. I need to think. I want disturbed people to leave me the hell alone. I want a snappy little red sports car. I want a handy little pick-up truck that never breaks down. I want good coffee not watery swill. I need a decent night’s sleep. I want to be taken to dinner. I want a raise. I need to be appreciated. I want people to do what they say they’re going to do. I need allergy medicine. I want to stay independent till I die. I want the people behind me in the movie theater to shut their yaps and stop kicking my %#&$ seat. I want to make art and get paid for it. I want to stay healthy. I need to eat NOW. I need to get up early. I need to be more productive. I need to go the store, to the DMV, to the doctor, to the repair shop, to school, to work, to the awards ceremony, to the funeral, to the graduation, to the meeting, to the appointment, to the wedding, to the gym, to the class, to the training, to…
We often get caught up in comparison and I think it’s our nature to compare “up the ladder.” We look at people who appear to have more or better than we do, and covet what they’ve got, whether it’s youth, beauty, material goods, health, cars, homes, spouses, kids, jobs, or money. Rarely do we compare ourselves to people who have or do less. I don’t talk around thinking, “Well at least I’m not a meth head.” And yet, I have been considering that if we’re going to play the Comparison Game (perhaps when we take a brief break from Whack-a-Need), we SHOULD look not only at who is standing on the rungs above us, but also at those below.
See, a thought came to me two days ago that offered a useful boost in perspective. It is that there are people who could be envying me or what I have. Generally, if this isn’t the last thing from my mind, it’s still pretty damn far away. And yet, it occurred to me when I’m thinking about everything I want, there could be people looking at what I have and thinking it looks quite good to them.
It’s not that I don’t appreciate what I have – I really do, increasingly, try to keep my focus there – but I expect I think MORE about my desires and wants. If I lived out in the woods here in the U.S., and quite honestly, there are people in my community who do, or I lived in an overcrowded hut in a third-world country, I bet my life, my things, my existence, would look awfully nice. As I write that, I’m taken aback. I need to remember that more.
So I played a little mental game of envying myself. What do I have that I’d be wishing for if it was not mine already? I’m no Pollyanna (“Let’s all just look on the bright side and sing a happy little tune!”), but doing this mental exercise was – is – instructive. The reality is I’ve got more than a few things I’d be wishing for if I didn’t have them. I’m determined to do this more. To think about what I have in terms of if I didn’t have it.