Thursday, July 9, 2009


I’ve been thinking lately about the power and allure of wanting something – particularly something you can’t have. Why is it that, so often, the first thing I do when I wake up in the morning is want things? It seems a peculiar thing to do – particularly when those things are things I know I can’t have or – even more puzzling – would never choose to have.

A case in point: I woke up this morning wanting a pair of red patent sandals with 4 inch heels I saw in a shoe store yesterday. Now, I would never actually choose to buy such shoes because I know they're a ridiculous form of footwear that would be both impractical and painful to wear – no matter how tall and sexy they might make me feel for the first 10 minutes I had them on. In any case, I can think of a hundred better ways to spend my money. (A donation to the Stephen Lewis Foundation comes to mind, for example.) So why did I wake up wanting those damned shoes?

It seems to me that there is something in the wanting itself that's pleasurable. Certainly, there’s a thrill that comes with desiring something or someone you know you can’t have (an even more intense thrill, if you think maybe you can, but shouldn't). And, depending upon the vividness of your imagination, there is great pleasure in imagining that you have or are with the object of your desire. But, ultimately, in that moment when you have to stop daydreaming and get on with real life, wanting also leads to disappointment, frustration and pain.

Like many people, I try hard to live every day with integrity, compassion, generosity and a sense of personal responsibility. And I genuinely believe that I have the power to choose how I will respond to most of the potentially destructive or hurtful impulses I feel. I am after all a responsible adult. Nevertheless, there are times when I envy those who seem readier or more able to give in to wanting.

Perhaps, they aren’t greedier, more selfish, less disciplined or more irresponsible than me. Perhaps, they simply have greater confidence in the wisdom of their own hearts, more faith that the universe will sort it all out in the end, and more courage to do things that frighten them. The one thing I know for sure is that they aren’t left wondering where their wanting might have taken them.

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