Today is March 9 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is “how often do you reflect upon your relationship with desire?” As you navigate the chaos and practice the art of living well you will invariably desire certain things, people, or life situations. In the pursuit of such desire, you should consider your relationship with it. The Buddhist collection of thoughts entitled Mahaprajnaparamita Shastra noted “When one seeks an object of desire, one suffers. When one gets an object of desire, one fears losing it. When one loses an object of desire, one is greatly troubled. At each and every point, there is no joy.” Have you suffered when seeking an object of desire? Have you feared losing an objective of desire you obtained? Have you been troubled by losing an object you once desired? Your relationship with desire will impact your ability to navigate the chaos and practice the art of living well.
Part of your relationship with desire should involve an understanding that, as British Nobel laureate Bertrand Arthur William Russell observed “All human activity is prompted by desire. There is a wholly fallacious theory advanced by some earnest moralists to the effect that it is possible to resist desire in the interests of duty and moral principle. I say this is fallacious." On the observations that ‘all human activity is prompted by desire’ Dr. Galen Guengerich wrote in an October 16, 2015 Psychology Today article "The Four States of Desire: From Everything to One Thing" there are several desires humans experience. “Physical desire is called hunger or thirst; intellectual desire is called curiosity; sexual desire is called lust; economic desire is called consumer demand. Remove these expressions of desire, and human life as we know it would cease to exist. Our culture in general and our economy are built on our desire for things and experiences we do not have.”
Every human has desires. As you navigate the chaos and practice the art of living however, the key is to have the self-awareness required to understand how many desires you do have. As the 15th-century Indian mystic Kabir explained, his four states of desire are directly related to one’s ability to navigate the chaos and practice the art of living well.
· Countless desires - most people are born with countless desires—too many desires to pursue any one of them with conviction or dedication. Most concern the superficial aspects of life, such as personal appearance or personal possessions. People who have many desires are the poorest of people, Kabir says, and they seldom achieve any success in any field. Their lives are also the saddest, because they are the most superficial, dominated by too many desires that matter too little.
· Limited desires –the second category involves individuals who have limited desires and who lead what many would consider successful lives. No matter what field of endeavor they choose, they manage to accomplish at least modest goals, because they are able to focus on only some desires.
· Few desires – the third category involves individuals who only a handful of desires. Out of these come the geniuses: great scientists like Madame Curie and Albert Einstein, great musicians and poets, great humanitarians and political leaders. These individuals have very few desires, and thus they will make their mark in whatever fields they commit themselves to.
· One desire – the fourth and final category is the rarest of groups. Finally, a few rare individuals have only one desire. These are the great mystics—spiritual leaders who often practice meditation, which is a demanding discipline designed to reduce one's number of desires. Over time, says Kabir, meditation can reduce a person’s desires from countless to many; then from many to some; from some to a few; and from a few to only one. As the number of desires becomes fewer, the desires themselves become less superficial and more profound.
How many desires do you have? How do you know? Have your desires changed over time? How often do you set time aside to understand your relationship with desire?
What is it that you want?