Sunday, October 14, 2012

A Post About Desire That's Not as Interesting as You Hope

Oh, did I wrinkle your paper?
I'm not out to present the Four Noble Truths that are the foundation of Buddhist teaching in a scholarly way; there's a good treatment of them on Wikipedia in an article that nobody is contesting.  But in the Zen/Unitarian fashion, I have my own way of thinking about them.
1.  Life is generally unsatisfactory and sometimes damn hard.
2.  The reason we suffer is that we don't accept reality; we desire things to be different.
 I'll stop there, because my little story today is about that second truth - desire.

We often think of desire as being about strong cravings for big things, like having a certain person love you, but it can be all over the place in our lives, hiding behind the curtains, you might say.  That's where one popped out at me the other day. 

I was lunching with a friend and our talk wound down a familiar pathway about how we just can't catch up and get things done and get everything organized and nice.  Yes.  For quite a few years now we've been having that talk, which I think consoles us a little, as in "misery loves company," and if anything, we're both worse now than ever.  Or let's say, there are more messes around our houses than ever.  I mean, we've had many years to build them, and some good excuses.

I suddenly had a small realization: the problem isn't that we're messy; the problem is that we don't want to be messy.  See what I mean?  We desire our houses to be neat, clean, and organized.  We don't want to create messes all through the day, throwing unopened mail on the table, throwing dirty clothes on the floor, not hanging our coats up.

Now, I can only speak for myself, obviously, and it's myself I'm describing, not Gini.  I have more messy piles in my house, drawers, and closets than I can count.  And that is the kind of cat I am.

That was a saying I attributed to Sherlock.  In the way of male cats, he was utterly unapologetic about his behavior.  Knocking over the African violets?  He didn't care.  If you asked him, "Why did you do that?" his answer was delivered silently, with a look - That's the kind of cat I am.  Then back to washing his shoulder.  He was what he was, and in the fashion of all cats, he had no desire to please anyone else, or to change.  Cat lovers cherish this fact, which perhaps mystifies dog lovers.

I think that we humans are too estranged from our own animal nature.  It gets a chance to come out in singing and dancing and other physical activities.  Otherwise, we tend to ignore it and to focus on doing things  animals with large brains and opposing thumbs can do, like talk and compute and make things.   And we tend to think we can conquer our basic natures.  And I'm sure we do a lot of that; but all that human command draws a line somewhere when it runs up against the wall of our basic nature. 

And that's okay, too, is my point.  Basically, you are what you are, and you can't be taller than you are or have smaller feet or bigger eyes, or umm, keep things neat and tidy when you just don't have a neat tidy gene in your body.  And maybe the only problem is that you desire to be different than you are.  There's that word again.  Watch out for it.


  1. Hi. I'm a long-time lurker, but you've pulled me out of hiding with this one. Thanks, this is just what I needed to hear.

    1. Thank you. It's good to know that occasionally my reality coincides with someone else's.

  2. Lovely reflection on reality. Thanks

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. I'm pretty sure that's what we mean by enlightenment - becoming simply awake to current reality, not being so pushed about by our bad karma that it ruins our lives. As I see it, the path is meditation, and the effort to be awake off the cushion as well.

    2. I messed up that previous comment, so I just tossed it. I agree totally that meditation allows you the space to actually feel the present moment, and the winds that take you away or not. I recently have been off my scheduled sits, and I can tell how much I am not fully in tune.

    3. Okay - that's cool that you can do that. I know just what you mean about getting off schedule - being out of tune is a good way to describe it.