What Do You Want?

by Celia Coates

In this country we are in trouble with wanting.
There are still too many people who are in want – they don’t have enough food, or safety, or health care, or the other basics of life in a rich country. Actually, they are in need. It’s more than want.

Then there’s a sizable number of people who feel entitled to all they can go after and they get enormous amounts of what they want – wealth, power, and status. Our country has become terribly unbalanced because of the common belief that what makes a person worthwhile is what they possess. Ethics, morals, or having good character don’t matter enough today. Even following the Golden Rule is often outranked by selfish priorities. We’ve become distracted and trapped by the comforts of materialism and we overvalue “stuff”. Does anyone live a truly fine life because they have three mansions and a big boat? Or, a golden toilet? You can tell I feel strongly about this.

This past week I read two comments by authors that set me thinking. They gave me a new way to explore wanting. First, I read Mitch Horowitz, *
“I’m always encouraging people when they’re searching for a way in life, when they are trying to figure out what to do with their existence, or what to do next, that they be very intimately honest with themselves about what they truly want out of life. We think that we ask ourselves the question, what do I want? – but I believe that we often deceive ourselves, and that we actually fail to ask that question in as deep or as penetrating a way as we ought to.”

Reading his words, I realized that for many years I hadn’t wondered about what I truly wanted. It seems most of us remember being asked over and over again when we were young, “What do you want to be when you grow up.?” Well, I didn’t have an answer. But I did want to do what was expected, to go ahead and grow up without failing or being left out.
Horowitz added,
“That question also gets stolen from us because we are all conditioned by peer pressure, by things that we grew up with, by notions that we inherited from who knows where.”
So, I just followed along ordering from the usual menu of life that had been presented to me and to most of my generation.

 And then, in reading Matthew Dowd, ** there were the just-right three words to describe the deep sense of true wanting,
“As I designed one aspect of my life differently, I naturally felt drawn to change others so that my life, in a more complete way, was more aligned with my internal heart intention.” **

 What a wonderful thought, what lovely words: “internal heart intention,” especially when added to “very intimately honest. You might not have been, but I was struck by what both Dowd and Horowitz wrote. Although I’ve usually seriously considered making life choices, I haven’t approached them in that clear and inward way. What I read awakened the higher possibilities that deep wanting – noticing the heart and soul – can open.

One of my favorite observations about materialism came from Gladys Strom Gardner (Elmer Green’s high school sweetheart and late in their lives, his partner) who used to say, “There are no bureau drawers in coffins.” You really can’t take it with you.

We live in a world filled with wanting of all kinds of things. We focus on fancy cars or designer clothes, having a thinner body, or winning a ticket to travel in space. Advertisers want us to want what they want to sell and that takes up a great deal of our attention. The constant presence of advertising leaves us very busy with what we must do to look good, what we must buy to feel OK, how we must live to measure up. We are surrounded, and besieged, by the need to deal constantly with products and possessions. We become dedicated consumers. These days it is hard to unplug enough to begin to consider the heart’s intention. (I think it would be wonderful if being an “influencer” meant more than having opinions about merchandise.)

Even though wanting can go wrong when we become entangled in a narrow-sighted pursuit of the world’s riches, the ability to want is one of the glories of being human. To be conscious of what we want is where creativity begins. When we can whole-heartedly explore what in our own personal life seems to call us, when we can decide to love and care for others, we can live with purpose, meaning, and fulfillment. And that doesn’t mean that pleasure and luxury are completely forbidden. We can begin with wanting in deep, meaningful ways for ourselves, then we can want wider – for others and for our world. Why not want an end to illness, war and violence, and climate peril? True wanting can put us in touch with our whole nature as beings connected to the divine.

Matthew Dowd had more to say that I want to include here,
…I again am clearly aware of how interconnected we all are. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you live, the decisions we make and those others make have a ripple effect across millions of human beings. We each are a part of another, and the natural world is part of all of us in both its beauty and in its destructiveness. We are all born from the same stuff, and there is an interrelationship amongst every single thing, both animate and inanimate. And we each bear a tremendous responsibility in what we say and do or what we allow in this world, whether we see the extent of the effect or not.”

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*  Mitch Horowitz, THE SEEKER’S GUIDE TO THE SECRET TEACHINGS OF ALL AGES: The Authorized Companion to Manly P. Hall’s Esoteric Landmark, Gildan Media, 2020.
**  Matthew Dowd, REVELATIONS ON THE RIVER, Healing a Nation, Healing Ourselves, Skyhorse Publishing, 2021.

The image that leads this post is from Fotolia.com



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2 Comments Add yours

  1. Chris says:

    Well said!!

  2. Nancy Prendergast says:

    “There are no bureau drawers in coffins.” That sentence is so simple and so profound, thank you. Life without love is a poor thing indeed. Love and the desire to have it all seem to be mutually exclusive.
    I never commented on your earlier post on the reality of evil, I agreed with it wholeheartedly.
    Enjoy the holidays!

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