The Taunt of Want
Sometimes I sit and think about how all I ever want to do in this life is eat good food and write sweet sentences and tell full truth. Plus there’s wearing elegant clothes and seeing pretty places and talking to lovely people.
So why don’t I? Why don’t any of us? I fancy myself one of the courageous who is brave enough to ask herself what she wants. And then I actually reply. But perhaps this is because I no longer see the asking of and responding to such a question as the necessitation of a need or an action, or even a will. It’s a simple stating – a stating of what is, applied value aside. This, to me, is beautiful.
No, I’m not saying that my wants are beautiful. Because they very well may not be. In fact, they might be bad. But the simple stating of these wants – unevaluated, unqualified – that is beautiful. After all, it is recognition that leaves room for examination. Therefore, it is within this space that we practice investigating the want and prodding the soul. Once we’re here we can decide whether or not the want is good or bad. In my opinion, this space is a place – and a process – that we miss out on far too often.
Most of us can barely spit out the question “What do you want?” before calling ourselves selfish. And if we can, the attempt at an answer is most likely a bleak effort to fight off the voice of practicality as she attempts to slap labels like “foolish” and “indulgent” onto our foreheads. I feel like has become increasingly difficult to define the line between self-respecting and self-indulgent.
I recently read Elizabeth Gilbert’s bestseller, Eat, Pray, Love. I know, I’m twelve years too late. But based on the fervor of Gilbert’s pursuit of pleasure during her stay in Italy, I think that she might disagree with this dichotomy of respect and indulgence. In fact, she might even argue that self-respect in some senses is self-indulgence. It is letting ourselves want for the sake of wanting. And it is fulfilling those wants for the sake of being fulfilled. For Gilbert, it was learning Italian for the sake of feeling sexy. And, according to her memoir, it seemed to work.
I like this concept, I really do. But I don’t know how much I agree with it. While I’m not one to restrain pleasure, I don’t know how far I am willing to go to obtain it. And while I believe that we can be self-satisfying without being self-indulgent, I often find that there is so much pleasure in life beyond the pursuit of personal pleasure. That is to say, ther are so many beings beyond the self. In fact, it is often within the experiencing of personal pleasure, the indulging of my own desires, that I am most deeply struck with loneliness – an even deeper desire than the one I find myself failing to satisfy.
It’s in the eating of a good meal, the watching of a funny show, or the reading of a well-crafted article that I can’t help but want to share the blessing and burden of its consumption. It’s ironic that in the satisfying of my personal desires, new cravings are cultivated. But mostly, it’s poignant that this satisfaction of self unveils the even deeper desire to satisfy someone else.