Conundrum


I published a poem on December 2, 2012 titled, “Desire.” You can see it here. It was one of the first poems I wrote when I started this blog. The idea of desire has always intrigued me. The word “desire” encompasses many things. What is desire? I suppose the simplest explanation is that desire is wanting something. When you’re hungry, you desire food. When you’re thirsty, you desire water. When you’re lonely, you desire companionship. Simple enough. And it must be said, that all people have desires. Buddhism purports that having desires is the cause of all suffering, and to rid yourself of all desire will bring you to a state of enlightenment or Nirvana. Many religions say if you follow them, you will be brought into a higher state of being where you surpass desires and achieve salvation. The entire consumerist culture is based on fulfilling your desires buy purchasing products, or following plans. We try diets because we want to lose weight. We invest our money because we want to have more. We try dating and marriage because we want companionship or love or sex. We want what we do not have. And what happens when we achieve those desires? Are we satisfied? Or do we simply want more?

Buddhism says, having unfulfilled desires causes suffering. It also says that fulfilling desires causes suffering because nothing is permanent. You get the new car you’ve always wanted and you’re happy. It’s clean and smells wonderful inside. Everyone tells you how beautiful it is. It starts on the coldest Winter days and handles well on the road. Four years later, it’s dirty all the time, there are scratches in the paint, parts are breaking down, etc. Nothing is permanent. Now, that car is no longer fulfilling your desires. Now, you want a new one. So Buddhism says if you rid yourself of desire by following the Four Nobel Truths and living the eight-fold path you can reach a state of enlightenment where you surpass desire. But isn’t desiring to rid yourself of desire just another desire? Aren’t we still seeking to fulfill a desire by trying to rid ourselves of it?

It’s a conundrum, to be sure. Unchecked desires have led to a lot of misery in the world. Countries invade other countries because they want what the other country has. People have affairs because they are unfulfilled in their current relationships. People steal and cheat and lie to get what they want. Some people work themselves into a poor state of health because they want more money. Anxiety, depression and other mental health issues can be brought on by desiring things we don’t have and trying too hard to get them. The desire for power and wealth at any cost usually puts those costs on the innocent. The achievement of desires has caused our current climate crisis. It has caused some in our government and country to put their hopes and dreams into a man who is not equipped to lead. The current Brexit situation in the U.K. or the Palestine/Israel situation or the many indictments from the Mueller investigation are perfect examples of desires getting out of hand. What then, is the answer?

I think most people realize that they can never rid themselves of desire. At the very least we desire the necessities of life. Food, water, etc. And I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with wanting a new car. I’m sure some may argue that automobile manufacturing causes lots of pollution so wanting a new car contributes to climate problems. And they’d be right. But the biggest reason I’m able to write on this computer and complain about unchecked desires is because of people having desires. Otherwise we’d still be living in caves, which might not be a bad thing from a certain point of view. However, we don’t live in caves and therefore we have to start where we are. I guess the point I’m trying to make here is that we need to keep checking on our desires to see that they don’t get out of hand. We need to seriously try not to hurt others by the fulfillment of our desires. And try not to hurt ourselves either. It takes a bit of introspection to really, honestly look at our own lives. Picking apart the things that we think, do, or say to see if we are being a responsible person. And why not? Why hurt others if we don’t have to? Just to have what we want? I hate to fall back on the so called, “Golden Rule,” but treating others well because it’s the way I want to be treated is not a bad way to keep my desires from harming others. What do you think?

Advertisements

Power


Imagine if you will, that you woke up one day and possessed the power of telekinesis. The power to manipulate matter with your mind. Imagine you could lift a car from a pinned accident victim. You could stop the flow of a river, redirect the wind. Stop someone’s heart, break someone’s arm. Empty a cash machine of all its money. All just by thinking it. I’ve been watching the Netflix series, “Stranger Things” where one of the characters has this power. The truth is, we all desire power. All of us. Presidents and governments desire power. A farmer desires power. Even a Buddhist monk, who has renounced all desire, has the desire to control their own desire. We all seek power and control, of one sort or another. So you wake up one day and discover that you have this power. You couldn’t use it without someone finding out about it. In today’s world, that would be impossible. What do you think would happen to you, once people found out about your power?

Have you ever wondered what you would do if you won the lottery? We’ve all seen these multi-million dollar lotteries being won by ordinary people and many of us have daydreamed about what we would do if it was us who won. Pay off all your bills, take trips around the world, give to charities, share it with family and friends. (You notice I said “share it” last!) I’ve thought about it. I’m pretty sure most people have. Why? Because we have desires. So what do you think would happen if you suddenly had telekinesis? People who win huge lottery payouts report that suddenly people from everywhere start requesting money. Thousands of people they don’t know want them to give them money. Winners have had to move. Change their phone numbers, hire security. All because other people desire to have what you have or desire to use what you have to achieve their own desires. The reason I’m focusing on telekinesis is because it represents enormous power. And power and control is the most desirable thing in the world.

You would immediately be courted by your government. And probably other governments as well. And private companies and institutions. All of them of course, would have noble and lofty reasons why you should be their ally. You could end war and famine. Bring rain to drought stricken areas, stop forest fires and hurricanes. Heal broken bones and sickness. While all of these things seem great, the underlying desire would be for power. You would be sought as a weapon. A weapon against cancer? Wonderful, right? But a weapon, non the less. What government doesn’t seek weapons? All countries want security. And most of them see security in weapons of force. I know I’m concentrating on the darker side of human nature but all you have to do is pay attention to world news to see the dark side in action. (Sounds like a Star Wars reference.) Everyone wants power and control. Everyone.

So what would you do, if you had this power? It’s kind of like the question of what you would do if you won millions in the lottery. What would you do? Certainly they would start with appealing to your better nature. Look at all the good you could do, they would say, if you were on our side. We only want to help. We only want to make things better. And if you turned them down, how long would it take before they started to use threats and force? We are human after all. We have desires. Jealousy, envy. Am I being too dark? I don’t think so. I think the desire for power and control by governments is so strong that they would be willing to do anything to secure your power for themselves. Look at what’s happening today. Donald Trump was willing to shut down the government, putting hundreds of thousands of people out of work, just to get his wall. To get what he wants, others must suffer. Look at other governments and how they treat people. Millions suffer every day so that governments and others in power can have more power. And if you suddenly had great power? What do you think they would do to you?