It’s interesting how much more we want.
For instance, for most of us it’s not enough to simply be the product of the miracle of life. We need there to be an afterlife too, and we need to make sure we’re eligible for it. It’s not enough, to say, to live in some of the richest countries at the richest time on earth. We also want to be some of the richest people in those countries, to be in a certain percentage or above of those rich people. We don’t even just want there to be an afterlife, we have to lifehack while we are alive because 75 years isn’t enough either.
This same greediness pervades even innocuous, ordinary interactions.
I remember reading an interview with a famous popstar a few years ago and after I finished, I said to myself, “Ugh. She is just not very smart.” This is ridiculous if you think about it. What the fuck do I care if she is not very “smart?” Being smart is not her job. And to judge someone—anyone—who is in other areas may be skilled and talented, as being somehow deficient because they lack some other additional thing that you feel entitled to?
More, more more, we want and need more.
Sure, at first, this can be adaptive. We naively think that if we have some other thing—be it time or money or status or love—then finally we will have a chance to be happy. So it drives us forward. Maybe even makes us successful or accomplished. Until eventually, and inevitably, the lie exposes itself in all its preposterousness.
For me, it was a nagging issue in my house that made this feeling clear. Now, I’ve worked very hard and gotten very lucky and happen to live in what is undeniably my dream home. Yet when I look around sometimes it truly bothers me that the floors don’t match. I want my dream home with floors that match. I need that little extra. More, more, I need more.
That drive has helped me do a lot things—but here it is, preventing me from enjoying something I actually do and should be more than happy with.
Which is really the consequence of such an attitude. Not only is it literally expensive—all the things we buy to try to satiate it—but it saps us of our ability to actually enjoy life and the best and most simple parts of life.
“To enjoy a poem or a landscape or a piece of music seems a waste of time; you must produce a poem or a composition or a work of art. Even to produce it is of little value in itself; your work must be known. What good is it if no one ever knows it? And even if it is known, that means nothing if it is not applauded and praised by people. Your work achieves maximum value if it becomes popular and sells! So you are back again into the arms and control of people.”
That’s where the chase of more gets you—forever dependent on other people, on the future—and you still come up empty. I can’t say there is an easy solution to this, but I can share an antidote I have been working through my system with some success.
While I meditate or when I am experiencing some quiet, ordinary moment, I just say to myself “This is all there is. That is enough.” The first time I did this, I was sitting in a sauna in Tromsø, Norway, looking out a window at the beauty of the Arctic Circle. The words just came to me. I think it was realizing that life really was majestic and awesome and all the things that were bothering me or the thoughts and desires running through my head were totally unnecessary in comparison. But I’ve come to see that these words are true in and and all moments.
If I’m exhausted and stressed—I am still experiencing all of the feelings and benefits of being a human being. If I’m fighting with my wife, I’m still in a great relationship. If I am sitting in the car, stuck in traffic, I’m still better off than most. If I die two seconds, I’m still alive in this one.
This is all there is. All there is is that present moment, with all its various negatives and positives, its extraordinariness and ordinariness. It’s plenty. It’s enough. It’s more than enough.
Inside us, around us, at any given moment, are all the ingredients we need. Unless you believe that the many other people who have had more or less or lived at different times and experienced happiness or contentment were somehow delusional. Unless you believe that your life up to this point was meaningless because it lacked X, Y, Z and you’re willing to accept the gambler’s chance that you might never get them or be cut short before you do.
To me, that’s delusional.
And it will make you so angry, unhappy, so frustrated with other people and external events. It’s wrongly thinking that they’re the asshole, that they’re the one lacking, instead of you.
“You will lament, you will be disturbed, and you will find fault both with gods and men,” as Epictetus says. “But if you suppose that only to be your own which is your own, and what belongs to others such as it really is, then no one will ever compel you or restrain you.”
No one and nothing will ever feel deficient either. And with this you will possess one of the most enviable gifts that one can ever possess: the ability to kick your feet up—anywhere, at anytime—and think: “Ok, this is good enough for me.” This person, this thing, this present moment, this is enough.
Because it is.