Living – Life – Large Aug. 28, 2023


A few years ago I spent an evening with a Buddhist monk talking about thought. It was an amazing evening where there were no parameters placed on any topics of conversation. It was captivating to speak with someone in a foreign country with such calm and different points of view.

One of the moments of dialogue contained the views of desire. What really evoked a thought in me was when he told me the greatest desire was to have no desire.

The concept of desire is to want, to crave and mean to have a longing for. The strength of feeling often implies strong intention or aim, especially for the unattainable.

In Buddhism, desire and ignorance lays at the root of suffering. By desire, Buddhists refer to craving pleasure, material goods and immortality, all of which are wants that can never be satisfied. As a result, desiring them can only bring suffering.

The answer, described in the Bhagavad Gita, a 700-verse Hindu Holy Scripture, is to learn to act without desire. But how is this possible when, according to the earliest writings of Hinduism, man is desire?

You are defined by what your deepest desires are. What you desire is what your will is. What your will is, is what your actions are and so too, is your destiny.

In philosophy, desire has been identified as a recurring philosophical problem. It has been variously interpreted as what compels someone towards the highest state of human nature or consciousness, as well as being posited as either something to be eliminated or a powerful source of potential.

Socrates said that someone who has a desire, desires what is not at hand and not present, what he does not have, and what he is not, and that of which he is in need; for such are the objects of desire. In order to desire something, you must also lack it.”

In Plato’s “The Republic,” Socrates argued that individual desires must be postponed in the name of a higher ideal. As in the teachings of Buddhism, identified as the most potent form of desire, is thought to be the cause of all suffering, which eliminates the attainment of greater happiness, Nirvana.

Desire is the addiction of satisfying the want that is pulsating through your veins. Like a junkie in the alley, your wants become another fix needed to feel the high of oxytocin and dopamine causing you to feel a surge and rush of euphoric emotion.

High levels of dopamine and a related hormone, norepinephrine, are released during attraction. These chemicals make us giddy, energetic and euphoric, even leading to decreased appetite and insomnia.

The culture of American advertising has tapped into want and desire to a degree that has become immeasurable. Advertising campaigns come and go, as do the products they promote, but what does not change so quickly are the cultural patterns that advertisers rely on to work their magic.

Advertisements are signs and symbols revealing something about the values of the culture from which they emerge and to which they are directed. Amongst nations, men easily attain certain equality of condition; but they can never attain as much as they desire.

Advertising creates desire and moves the mindset from I like it” to I want it.”
It creates an emotional appeal that subtly convinces the audience that the item being promoted will make a difference in their lives by satisfying a desire of making them happy and giving them a false status. Desires are wants that go beyond basic needs. They are things that consumers want, but that are not necessarily essential for survival.

Wanting something, such as wanting to lose weight, may likely be something you abandon or cheat on,” but a desire is something that you will likely follow through with and not cut corners in achieving. Desire is often associated with a longing and a pursuit that drives your spirit to not forget until you have reached it. 

The world of resale has perfected this complete idea of materialistic consumerism, which includes desire and suffering. Consumer materialism is a personal value that reflects the importance a consumer places on the acquisition and possession of material objects. 

In common use, consumerism refers to the tendency of people living in a capitalist economy to engage in a lifestyle of excessive materialism that revolves around reflexive, wasteful or conspicuous overconsumption.

Consumerism and materialism negatively affect society by manipulating the consumers’ wants vs. needs and mood, while increasing debt. It is a slippery path that leads to hopelessness, anxiety and depression, ushering in negative impacts in the overall quality of life.

Psychologists find that materialistic values may stem from early insecurities and are linked to lower life satisfaction; accruing more wealth may provide only a partial fix.

Compared with Americans in 1957, today we own twice as many cars per person, eat out twice as often and enjoy endless other commodities that weren't around then, big-screen TVs, microwave ovens, SUVs and handheld wireless devices, to name a few. But are we any happier?

Certainly happiness is difficult to pin down, let alone measure. But a recent literature review suggests we’re no more content than we were then, but in fact, perhaps even less so.

In today’s materialistic world, the value of things is the monetary price placed on it. What I believe is the highest value and worth is the amount of your life you pay for what you are trying to obtain. - dbA

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