Much of the world finds itself in the midst of holiday shopping season. It’s that time of the year when desire for material goods is cultivated and greatly encouraged. No, I’m not going to argue against desire for nice stuff and materialism; that would be a futile act in this culture. Besides, who doesn’t enjoy a nice surprise during the holiday season? A little bit of desire makes the world go around.
If you’re somewhat like me, you awaken in the morning and feel the desire to improve our world and also the desire to enjoy our world. The process of balancing these apparent opposite desires is one factor to consider when planning our days and our lives. As in other aspects of life, the key word is “balance”. Who says we cannot improve life on Earth without also appreciating life as it is? This requires a fair amount of introspection.
How do we personally define the act of improving the world? Does it mean forcing others to behave the way we wish they could behave? Or does it mean that we allow others the freedom to become the best people they can become by letting them explore life in the manner they wish for themselves? This does not mean laissez faire chaos; there will probably always be the need for some type of government that keeps the peace and protects the nation. In my opinion, it is best to err on the side of allowing all people to choose their own paths and to formulate their own personal philosophies while keeping practical considerations in mind.
After all, your desires may differ from my desires. Your experiences and lessons probably differ from my experiences and lessons. We cannot shoehorn everyone into the same belief system nor force conformity to a particular set of desires. Like shoes, there is no such thing as one size fits all. When we formulate our personal life paths, we balance desires with primary necessities.
We learn to see ourselves reflected in others despite our differences in desires, motivations, and life circumstances. Ideally, we recognize that most people share desires for security, meaning, and fulfillment. These desires exist in everyone even if they are expressed differently. To live with this understanding in mind means to travel a path paved with empathy and mercy.
There is another desire that, in my opinion, is the manifestation of a healthy mind. That is to be curious with the desire of the mind to acquire knowledge and wisdom. The more we learn, the more we realize how little we know. The more we understand, the greater the desire to seek further knowledge and wisdom. The more we learn about the world and the Universe, the more humble we become.
Being mindful of our discontent and the desire to want more things, more experiences, and more wisdom we realize that all of our desires can never be satisfied. For example, we see the wealthiest individuals on Earth endlessly thirsting for more wealth and power. Their mansions are not big enough, their yachts are not impressive enough, their business empires are not all encompassing enough. They find it difficult to admit that they already have more than everything they’ll ever need. The wisest people understand that while it is difficult to satisfy desire, it is smart to cultivate contentment. Yes, we can say NO to ourselves and feel good about saying NO.
It is helpful to remember that human behavior consists of at least one of these causes behind it: chance, compulsion, habit, luck, passion, reason, and desire. Oftentimes our behavior is a combination of these.
“Love and desire are the spirit’s wings to great deeds.”–Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
I believe Goethe got it right. The combination of love and desire can propel us towards living a life that is good for everyone involved. In the same way that we wish to make other people and society perfect we must recognize any lack of desire to amend our own faults. Ancient wisdom notes that we must love ourselves in order to love others and we must desire and cultivate wisdom before we can compassionately aid others along the way.
We all desire things that we cannot have. So many lives reflect that vain struggle. There comes a time when we must honestly contemplate our desires and make peace with our real-life limitations. This does not mean we give up. It does mean we are better able to move forward with more focus upon our major priorities. In my opinion, we are our own inner guides. There is a profound power that resides within our minds to create the lives we so desire–regardless of the challenges. For better or worse, desire is an energizing force.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes ancient stoic philosopher, Epictetus. “Nothing great is created suddenly, any more than a bunch of grapes or a fig. If you tell me that you desire a fig. I answer you that there must be time. Let it first blossom, then bear fruit, then ripen.”
I’m glad that contentment isn’t related to wealth and power. Happiness is hard to attain as it is.
Wealth and power are often red herrings.