I read somewhere that, when you’re truly hungry, anything will do. The rest is appetite only, desire rather than need. That must be so. A healthy person appreciates what life presents and recognizes the best choices as necessities, fulfillment, not whim or chance or craving.
But, if so, then I’m not healthy, another 21st century person restless for something new. My cravings leave me feeling spoiled, ungrateful, and crass, annoying to tolerate and so entirely lost as to be hardly worth correcting. I supply internal reminders—be thankful, be thankful, be thankful. You’re lucky, you’re lucky, you’re lucky. You need no more.
Please tell me I’m not alone. As often as I prompt myself to gratitude, I still sense some deficit, something denied, and I search and search for what “something” might be. I like to think it isn’t just self-absorption. Nothing is quite right. This refrigerator doesn’t seem mine. Its contents look like a stranger’s idea of appealing, and what I’m supposed to want doesn’t match any true longing. I want, and what I expect and hope is always just out of reach, impossible to grasp.
Maybe my complaints try your patience, but listen. I wonder if I ought to be adjusting the world instead of myself. My default position is that my problems arise from my deficits, my inability to deal with what life deals me. Yet what if the world is the trouble, if thinking I’m the trouble allows the world to persist in its pathologies, to stymie all my chances at satisfaction, and to disrupt gratitude? What if I’ve been duped to accept discontent as means to more effective marketing?
Maybe my restless desire for more isn’t wholly my doing.
It sounds ridiculous to say so, but we take so much onto ourselves now: the issue isn’t what creates stress but how we deal with it, the issue isn’t the outrageous misdistribution of wealth but our own materialistic definition of success, the issue isn’t advertising but our susceptibility to it, the issue isn’t our laments but our lamenting. The real truth may be—in all these cases—both, but what does our owning so much of the problem get us? How can we improve the world if we always feel it’s we who need improving?
Thanksgiving has passed. Christmas lies ahead. Over the next few weeks, I expect to be bombarded by all I ought to want, and I expect some of it will convince me. But I’m going to try to keep the door closed, to decide for myself when to open it.