Wanting presupposes that we do not have things as we would like them to be. It therefore implies dissatisfaction with the status quo. When we want something, we declare that we consider it necessary to push the world into some pattern which we have decided is desirable. We tend to allow ourselves ecstasy when the push-into-pattern is achieved, and depression when the push-into-pattern fails.
Thus, the child wants their toy. They have decided that the world needs to change pattern, until the toy is in their hands, and their hands alone. When this happens, the child experiences brief ecstasy. When this does not happen, the child shouts or sulks at the world.
Thus, the adult wants their partner. They have decided that the world needs to change pattern, until the partner is in their hands, and their hands alone. When this happens, the adult experiences brief ecstasy. When this does not happen, the adult shouts or sulks at the world.
And thus, the politician wants their result. They have decided that the world needs to change pattern, until the country is in their hands, and their hands alone. When this happens, the politician experiences brief ecstasy. When this does not happen, the politician shouts or sulks at the world.
A SUFFERING CYCLE
The answer to the question ‘Why can’t I do what I want to do?’ is that sometimes you can, sometimes you can’t. But in wanting things, you have started a game which puts you on a constant cycle between joy, anxiety, and disappointment. For instance, you want a car. You may receive brief joy at acquiring it. Then, when it begins to go wrong, you will get anxious. And then, when it has gone wrong, you experience disappointment.
So you can try to get your own way, by all means. Just know that, in doing so, you have chosen a cyclical lifestyle where you will find your emotions swinging between brief satisfactions and longer dissatisfactions.
AN ILLUSORY SELF
Know also that you have chosen something that is not a proven way to lasting happiness. In contrast, it is a kind of illusion. You have started by putting yourself at the centre of the universe. Otherwise, why have you picked yourself as the focus of the want? And what is this self that you are trying to satisfy? Are you sure it exists?
LOSING THE ILLUSION
All of the above is very natural and easy for humans – we do it all the time. But there is another way of approaching life, in which we lose our illusory sense of being at the centre of the universe, and learn to be satisfied with the status quo.
Then, all we want to do is watch. We don’t want to own anything, because that would be nonsensical. We don’t start with the false assumption of a self that is the centre of the universe. We don’t grab at events and try to force them into a particular pattern.
A HAPPIER WAY
If we choose this alternative way, then the cycle of suffering loses its strength. We cease to be bound on a wheel of ups and downs. Life becomes much more reliable, because we are not grabbing at illusions.
If we stop wanting, then, ironically, because we feel no lack, the issue of wanting ceases to apply. In one of the nicest paradoxes there is, we kind of have all we want, because we want, and therefore lack, nothing.