What We Think We Want

Posted on 02 September 2014

One truism goes: the best way to get rich quick is to write a book about how to get rich quick. I would say a few other topics are also easy ways to get attention, such as how to find true love or become famous. We all share certain basic desires. These desires have a dark side and we need to name that dark side, so we can overcome it. Because there is a light side to these desires as well.

Indulgence

Our bodies have very good reasons for wanting to indulge. We need food and clothing to survive. Once upon a time we needed to fatten up during the summer in order to endure the cold of winter. I weigh my cats once a week and it surprises me how much more food they need during the winter chill in order to maintain their weight.

Anything to do with survival is at least partially hardwired into our system: procreation, finding warmth, craving food. This makes them easy buttons to push for those seeking wealth. However with greater access to these things, the more conscious we have to be about our choices in order to keep our lives in balance.

This is not easy when like cocaine pushers you have companies displaying sugary foods at every cash register, across large public billboards, on television, radio, the Internet, and films. You rarely have a chance NOT to think about sugar. Notice whenever you use the words of addiction around something. Remember, addiction is not in fact a good thing. It takes away your agency and exposes you to physical harm.

Wealth

We all have a right to our existence. Our civilisation requires the exchange of currency in order for people to have access to the necessities of life such as food, clothing, and shelter. Wealth means never having to worry that your needs will be met.

Many people do not have a steady access to the means by which to live. Many nervously gaze at those worse off than they and try to distance themselves from the neediness, as if it were an infection. Wealth is also used to dominate and control. Wealth puts a person in a position where they don’t have to care any more: after all, they have all they need, too bad about you.

If we think about wealth as being a form of shared well-being, where everyone and every being’s needs are met and they get to experience a rich meaningful existence, then wealth can be a good thing.

Power

All of the wants listed here are a desire for some form of control. Power is perhaps the “purest” form of control.

One of the most destructive things on Earth is power devoid of compassion. As a gamer I came across this quote (I do not know its origins): “Positions of power attract people whose sole interest are positions of power.” This means power does not corrupt so much as you will find people who will smile, bow, and dissemble until they reach a position of control, at which point you discover they never cared about the welfare of the group to begin with.

We all make power negotiations every day. All of us would like to have our own way. However, with power sharing we are much more likely to get what we need in the larger picture. With my peace groups I have to remind people that we are about more than just the cessation of fighting. A military dictatorship can be “peaceful” in that the populace is not raising arms against one another or a neighbouring state. However, does anyone within that state actually feel peaceful? Or are they living in fear?

The empowerment of a people where they are well cared for, experience human rights, can initiate change, and actively have a say in the governing of their affairs…this comes with cooperation and creates a deeper peace. Politicians should see themselves as public servants, not nobility.

Justice

We all yearn for justice. If I work hard, it seems only just that I should make a good living. If I am kind to men/women, it seems only just that one should become a partner. If someone does me harm, it seems only just that they are punished.

Vengence and entitlement are not the same as justice. And some things you shouldn’t have to earn, they should be your right: such as necessities and respect for diversity. Real justice comes when you look beyond yourself and think about how to make things better, rather than destroying the things that make you unhappy. “I hurt, so I want to make you hurt,” is a dangerous game to play. People can be hurt when no harm was intended.

True Love

This is the New Age equivalent to the “get rich quick” genre.

Humans are social animals. Our brains need the stimulation that comes from other humans. We are not built like tigers who can hunt alone, we need one another acting cooperatively in order to access food. We need to be able to bond with one another and our children for at least twelve years in order to see them to adulthood, and thereby ensure the continuation of the human race.

True love speaks to our needs for companionship, procreation, and personal validation. For women in our culture it has traditionally also spoken of their need for someone who will ensure their physical survival. It’s hardly surprising that we would like some guarantees in this arena.

Looking for “true” love will set your expectations too high and cause a lot of disappointment. “True” love is often about validation without challenges…which will never happen. Real love is prepared to face challenges, to work things through even when it’s hard. “True” love is also about owning another person: they don’t get a say in what they want or what they do, they are required to want and stay with you no matter how you treat them.

Love for validation is incredibly dangerous. You have to be able to validate yourself. If not, you will be vulnerable to manipulation and drawn to the “cool” kids who are likely to abuse you. The other problem is that no one’s love will ever satisfy, if you are incapable of validating yourself. You can shower love on someone seeking validation, and when they realise you aren’t making them feel better, they lose respect for you and feel someone else might be better.

To me the point isn’t “true” love, but simply love. You can love your friends, your family, and show humanitarian love and care for the environment. Nail those, and you may run into a few people who will enjoy your companionship. Just let it happen and enjoy all the types of love in your life.

Fame

By fame I mean anything that makes you exceptional and the focus of attention. The craving after unnatural physical beauty fits in here along with wanting to be the world’s greatest pianist. Fame gives you status and people respect status. People will tend to give you more privileges. This helps with your survival and gives you external validation.

Fame also means people will want to knock you down off your pedestal. If your fame is based on beauty or physical strength, age will be your enemy. People will feel they have a right to know what is happening in your life. You will have a hard time knowing when people care about you, and when they care about your status. You will also have a hard time feeling good about yourself independently of your fans. Fame comes and goes. Very few people are equally famous all their life. So, they can end up in this roller coaster of liking and not liking themselves as the wind blows (to mix a metaphor or two). If you want to know why so many artists take their lives, this is one strong reason.

It’s good to fully develop your potential and to stretch yourself as a person. When you are an artist fame should be seen as having a good customer base for your service, rather than a demonstration of your personal worth.

Fitting in

As social creatures we fear ostracisation. In the animal kingdom it often means death. So even though we may crave being exceptional, that only works at the top of the pyramid. Before that point people don’t want to stand out. They want to be invisible and out of harms way. They seek to show their allegiance to various groups by taking up the “uniform” of that group, hoping to gain acceptance and protection by being a part of something bigger than themselves.

I bridle at phrases such as “my other half” and “he/she completes me” when talking about couples. Surely a relationship is stronger and has more depth when two wholes come together to make a greater whole. Interdependent relations are healthy. It means you get to bring everything you are as a gift to share with your community. Co-dependent relations means you get a pack of drones who may have some power due to the intensity of their focus, but are ultimately self-destructive.

We all need a certain amount of skill in socialisation. We need some of the niceties of politeness to ensure smooth interactions in our day to day intercourse. We also need to be accepting of our differences and the differences of others.

Eternal Youth

Our generation is not the first to seek the fountain of youth. However, we may be a generation that has lost our ability to value the wisdom that can come with experience and age. We want the vitality of youth. It has its own sort of power. Our experience of life is so intense at that time and we are full of possibility. It’s intoxicating.

However, we are seeing youth as solely a physical quality. We choose to lose much of our youth as we divest ourselves of joy, love, and engagement in order to avoid vulnerability. If I look younger than my age, I attribute it to still going outside to fly a kite or cry at a movie or dance at a party. Someone who still feels, who remains active, who cares, and who smiles a lot is always going to seem more youthful. Don’t throw out your Teddy Bear!

And so

Fear about an ever changing and dangerous world and our place in it can cause us to want and behave in a distorted manner. Life is not easy. And anyone telling you otherwise is selling something. It’s okay to be frightened. It’s not okay to get so lost that it seems reasonable to cause harm. I actually find the Serenity Prayer an important mantra in my life:

Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.

May you find the same serenity.

Peace and kindness,

Katherine


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