Desire

It still smells like an ashtray in here. It’s distracting. I certainly can’t say that it’s clean, but at least it seems sanitary. It’s not disgusting, but it wouldn’t be acceptable if I were staying longer than two nights.

I’m only a few meters from the room that I was a bit sad to leave almost a month ago. I’m so close, my computer can still pick up the internet signal. That’s also distracting. It’s electronic misery. It creates a desire. It reminds me that I have had better, that life has been better, that I can do better. It insists that the past is a real place where things were different, where they were desirable. Compared to this moment, it seems like paradise.

And that train of thought leads only to misery. The incredible human ability to remember creates an entire universe that does not exist. Neither future not past exist, but we can imagine that they do, and the desire for the present to transform into that image leaves a wish unfulfilled and leads only to anxiety, frustration, and anger.

Yet this seems to be the default human condition. How much unrest is caused by a longing for a past that can never be retrieved or a future that is unlikely to come? All of it. Why do citizens complain about their governments? Why do people march in the streets? Why do extremists start revolutions? Why do politicians send their men and women to war? Why does anyone fight?

They want something they don’t have. They can’t accept the fact that their present situation is as it is. They want to bring into reality an imagined world.

We all do, don’t we? We honor those who have fought for a belief, and idea – a fiction. We follow those who dedicate their lives to causing change. We admire those with the courage stand up. We envy those with something to stand for. If we don’t, those who do call us complacent and defeatist.

But why should we fight? Why should we want “hope and change”? Hope only brings us the misery of realizing that things are not different. Change only brings us something different to hope for. Wouldn’t we all be better off if we just accepted the way things were? Wouldn’t we all be happy if we understood that the past will never return, and the future can’t be controlled?

Of course not. That’s silly. That’s impossible (for the vast majority of us, anyway). We do remember, dream, hope, and desire. It’s the human condition.

As hard as I try to focus only on the present moment – on what is, what really exists – that damn smell is too distracting. We all suffer from this affliction. We can certainly lessen the amount we suffer, but it can never fully be cured. In many ways, we don’t want it to be. There will always be some circumstance that breaks the meditative will of even the most practiced monk. Pain, fear, hunger, or thirst are beyond our control, and to fight for a world in which these feelings are minimized is honorable, admirable, enviable, and worthy of pursuit.

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