THE CHALLENGE OF DESIRE
By Roland Watson
In the last article, we saw that power conflicts typically arise when people want different things. This raises the question: Is it wrong to want?
The answer to this is that it depends on what you want. Many desires are completely legitimate, and reflect our basic needs. It is of course OK to want food, and shelter, and love, and knowledge, and to express yourself with creativity.
However, we need to remember that a basic objective of social influences is to get us to change our needs and desires, into the needs and desires that the influences want us to have. It is through our doing this that the needs of the sources of the influences are satisfied. These include - fundamentally - money and power, meaning money from us, and power over us. We therefore need to be extremely careful in deciding what we want.
It's worth recalling that the basic message from the Buddhist philosophy is that suffering in life is caused by desire, by not seeing your desires fulfilled. If you reduce or control your desires, you will reduce your potential to suffer.
The importance of discrimination
What all of this illustrates is that the most important step of all in fighting behavioral form is discriminating in what you want. You should try to eliminate your desires, at least the negative desires that social influences try to get you to have.
For example, we can recall that their intermediate objective, the means by which they get power and money from us, is to cause us to feel afraid or guilty. But, you do not want to feel afraid or guilty. You don't need that. So, again, if you sense that an influence is having this effect on you, reject it out of hand.
The desire for possessions
One desire that it is essential to control is your craving for possessions. The reason for this is that while your possessions may bring you some happiness - and many times this is only fleeting - they also enslave you in a number of different ways.
The first of these is that possessions require money, to buy them. This means that you will have to work a lot of the time, to afford them. Many people also satisfy their desire for possessions by taking on debt, but you should avoid this like the plague. Taking on debt is the end of your freedom. It programs your future as clearly as a prison sentence.
Secondly, possessions are used to define and type you, so you should be very careful about what you own. In general, you should try to simplify your life, and reduce the number of things that you need or want.
Thirdly, certain types of possessions tie you down. Having a car means you can go anywhere, but maybe not if you need to stay in one place to work and pay for it. It's the same, but worse, with a house. Having a thirty year mortgage means that you are stuck for thirty years. Of course, you can sell your house, but this is expensive, time-consuming and risky.
Having a house also means that you will end up worrying if it is safe, when you aren't there. Many, many people say that they want to travel, and a lot of them can probably afford it, too, but they don't, because they are afraid that they will be robbed - of their possessions - while they are away.
Finally, possessions have one other form, a form all their own, which is simply the form of spending money. This is the satisfaction that you get from buying things. Doesn't it feel good to buy things? I feel like buying something right now. Let's go to the mall!
Reducing your need for possessions, reduces your need for money. Therefore, you don't have to work as much, and you can use your greatly increased spare time for other pursuits: to do things that are fun, or to develop yourself, to become the person you have always wanted to be. Self-development is actually one of the most fun, the most satisfying, things of all.
The money trap
The money issue also reflects a deeper, basic fear. We are swamped with social messages that say that we can never have enough money. We are taught to be afraid of being destitute in our old age. Okay, this is a legitimate concern - no one wants to be destitute. But, how real of a fear is it?
Most societies, both modern and traditional, now have formal support systems in place to assist the elderly. Many, many individuals also respect the elderly - this is a great form - and work to help them. It is rare now that people don't have shelter or enough food, and this extends to all age groups.
Another driver of the "not having enough money fear," though, comes from somewhere else. We all have the instinct to procreate, and society does everything it can to see that we follow through on it. Consider the advertisements directed at women. Women are taught to feel guilty if they don't have children.
This has the effect of shifting the money fear to your kids. You need to keep working really hard to have enough to provide for them, but in an expensive and uncertain world this amount is essentially limitless. Look at how the cost of going to a university has skyrocketed.
This entire discussion shows how deceptive and cynical behavioral form is. It takes natural and positive needs, the desire to have children and to raise them well, and turns them against us, as a means of control.
In conclusion, here are some additional tips regarding the desire for possessions.
First, don't look at any advertisements, and never do anything that an advertisement asks of you. If you do watch an ad, think: Brainwashing, brought to you by Nike - or any other advertiser, the choice of the conformed!
Next, avoid exposure to all celebrities, cults and idols, including TV, movie and music stars, models, politicians, business leaders, and religious figures.
More broadly, avoid exposing yourself to strong images, including images of such things as war, violence and death. These exposures mark you indelibly. You can never forget them.
Under no circumstances buy anything that uses "hype," or the concept of "cool," in a sales pitch.
Also, when you consume things, don't finish them. Save a little for later. This is actually a good, simple technique that you can use to regain your self-discipline.
And lastly, be alert to "creeping materialism." This is what happens when your desire grows as you age, and your income grows to support it. You should recognize the increasing desire for what it really is: an addiction, to shopping, and to defining yourself through your possessions. You should limit having, and using, credit cards, and to repeat an earlier point, under no circumstances take on great personal debt.
The only possible exceptions that I can think of to this are to buy a house or a car. But, as I said before, even these are debatable. Most new housing construction is sprawl - it destroys natural spaces. There are already plenty of houses and apartments available, and for rent.
For transportation, where possible you should use public sources. You should only get a vehicle - start with a bicycle - if you live in an area that is not serviced by public transportation.
A final example of a type of desire that you should try to defeat is the desire to have power over other people, and, more generally, to be powerful.
This is a good lead-in to the next article, where I will examine how you can minimize the impact of your personal form on other people.