Peace Within the Riddle

What do you want? Or is what you want always just something you don’t have.

Those spoken words actually came falling out of my mouth this morning from a source I am unsure of. Since I live alone, saying such a thing aloud actually caught me by surprise. Only after speaking them did I start to wonder where they came from. Nothing specific happened. No particular thought was bouncing in my head.

All I did was go stand on my porch for about a minute taking in the cooler weather. Enjoying the view of the big cyprus tree out front decked out in its rich fall brown I watched the needed autumn rain drizzle down. Listening to the soft splatters on my driveway and the gentle ringing of drops falling in the gutters, I felt contented in the moment. Then as I came back in my home and was walking down the entry hall, those words arrived for me to say aloud to no one except myself: What do you want… or is what you want always just something you don’t have?

Neil Gaiman wrote, I don’t want whatever I want. Nobody does. Not really. What kind of fun would it be if I just got everything I ever wanted just like that, and it didn’t mean anything? What then? So does that mean I will always be malcontented and never at peace with where I am and what I have? I hope not. Such a cyclical truth going round and a round in my brain would be maddening like a dog chasing, but never catching, his tail!

A lot of people get so hung up on what they can’t have that they don’t think for a second about whether they really want it, was Lionel Shriver’s view of things. In that case I’d like NOT to be in the group he called “a lot of people…” and believe I have escaped the usual simply by asking my question; What do you want… or is what you want always just something you don’t have?

Thinking redemption and happiness can never be found in “what is” and instead only achieved within “what might be” is the near raving of a lunatic. In his novel “Lullaby” Chuck Palahnuik stated his version of this thought when he wrote, Are these things really better than the things I already have? Or am I just trained to be dissatisfied with what I have now?

Possibly the continual search for more, different and new is a natural insanity that is innate with being human. Dan Millman wrote in “Way of the Peaceful Warrior…”  If you don’t get what you want, you suffer; if you get what you don’t want, you suffer; even when you get exactly what you want, you still suffer because you can’t hold on to it forever. That brings me back at my original quandary: What do you want… or is what you want always just something you don’t have?

I found an explanation that sets my mind at ease to some degree in an article written in Psychology Today by Alex Lickerman, M.D., a practicing Buddhist for over twenty years. He wrote: Research suggests that our conscious minds aren’t so much in charge of the decisions we make as they are great rationalizers of them. Which means they often collude with our unconscious minds to craft stories about why we do things and even why we feel things that are just blatantly untrue. We often have far more invested in seeing ourselves as virtuous, noble, fair-minded, and good than we do in recognizing the truth: that we often want things and therefore do things that make us base, selfish, self-righteous, and unjust. All of which is to say that sometimes we may not actually know what we want. Or, even more commonly, we may not know why we want it.

What do you want… or is what you want always just something you don’t have? That thought I spoke aloud this morning has no precise answer, except to find peace within the riddle through accepting what is and trying to keep hope for a future with no specific definition. For the calming effect of the experience of writing this, I am humbly grateful.

As soon as you stop wanting something,
you get it.
Andy Warhol