We have painstakingly established the fact that if you didn’t have anything to want you would be serenely enraptured and blissful to the core. The quickest way to that happy land is to stop wanting. Instant bliss. There. That takes care of that. I would ask you if there is anything else I can do for you while I’m in the mood and we’re all here, but there couldn’t possibly be. Once you’ve stopped wanting, there is nothing else to ask for, nothing more to have. Life is good. And religion is now of no use to you whatsoever.
People have traditionally used religion as a tool to pry what they want from God. We are told that if we give ten percent of our annual income after taxes, deductions, exemptions, exclusions and expenses to God, in return, God will give us everything we ask for. It’s a very good deal. Where are you going to beat it? Give to Get. And to hear those who are selling it tell it, it works every time.
I don’t know if you’ve noticed this little detail, but those selling the Give to Get deal are always those who handle our ten percent on its way to God. They are the middle persons, overseeing the transmission of our withdrawals to their deposit in the heavenly coffers. I’m not suggesting that that would be any reason for them to lie about how well the idea Giving to Get actually works, but it does sound a bit like bribery, inducement, enticement, or “priming the well” as they say in the deep south. I’m only pointing out that religion’s primary function is to position us to get what we want from God, and that if we didn’t want anything, where would preachers be?
Or advertising agencies? Or manufacturing conglomerates? Or, well, Wall Street? We’ve started something here, haven’t we. This is revolutionary. Radical stuff. There is no end to the implications. It could transform life as we know it. End life as we know it. If we didn’t want anything, there wouldn’t be anything. Where would that leave us? Desire-less living wouldn’t offer us anything to live for. The Buddha put forth desire as the origin of suffering, but the blessed state of desire-less-ness isn’t all that pain-free considering the mess things would be in if we stopped wanting.
We can't not-want! Wanting is the ground of existence. The economy is based on wanting, and everything is based on the economy. If we stopped swapping money around the table there would be very little eating, or anything else going on. So, never mind about the bliss of not-wanting. The Yogis can sit not-wanting, but somebody has to fill their rice bowls. Has to want to. Has to want to care for those who want-not. Religion is safe, and I have a job. Thanks for your part in filling my rice bowl.
But. Wanting does get in the way. What a tree wants doesn't matter. With the proper amount of light, water and nutrients, a tree is going to be a tree. What we want matters most. Why live if we can't have what we want? What's the point if it isn’t getting what we want? What a tree wants doesn't matter. What we want is the only thing that does matter. A tree will thrive with the right amount of water, light and nutrients. Not us. We have to have what we want or why live? A tree never asks, “Why live?” Trees live wherever they can for as long as they can, glad to be alive. Not us. We have to have what we want or else.
You’ve heard me say that the only thing standing between us and God is us. The only thing standing between us and the way that is The Way is us. And the thing about us that is in our way is our wanting, willful, way. So, what to do? We can’t want and we can’t not-want. It’s a pickle. The only way to move forward when you are in a pickle—when you are caught between two mutually exclusive options—is to do one thing with your eye on the other. You must not forget that you are in a pickle, and you must not let being in a pickle incapacitate you, immobilize you, and keep you from doing what needs to be done. When you are in a pickle, you must BE in a pickle, consciously, intentionally, deliberately—maintaining the tension of the opposite poles and bearing the pain of not being able to do either because of the other AND DO ONE with an eye on the other one.
We have to want wanting to not want.
Here’s how it works: There is wanting, and there is knowledge of wanting, knowing that we are wanting. Spend more time knowing you are wanting than wanting unknowingly. Don't just want, know that you are wanting. Be interested in the wanting. What does wanting keep you from facing, doing, thinking about? How does wanting insulate you from the life that is waiting to be lived? What role does wanting play? How does wanting keep you from living? How does wanting enable you to live?
The role of wanting in enabling life and preventing life is the heart of the matter. It revolves around the question, “Whose side are we on?” Wanting, when it is aligned with life and exercised in the service of life that is the heart and soul of life, what life is all about, is, as it has been phrased in the church of our experience, “obedience to the will of God.” Wanting that is opposed to life and contrary to the heart and soul of life, of what life is all about, is, as has been phrased in the church of our experience, “disobedience unto sin.” We can want what is right for us and we can want what is wrong for us. So, alongside of the question, “Whose side are we on?”, we place the question, “What do we want and how does that serve life or oppose life?”
In order to answer these questions, we have to answer the other question, “Of what does LIFE consist?” We don’t spend enough time with this one. It’s taken away from us by the ad agencies and cultural trends. LIFE consists of the lights and action of Gay Paree, or whatever the current equivalent is. But we can’t trust the commercials or the culture with this one. It’s the biggie. No one can tell us of what our life consists. That is ours to divine on our own.
The spiritual journey, quest, task is knowing and doing what is life for us. The church as it ought to be would be equipped to help you know what you are here for, to discern what is yours to do, to find the path with your name on it and live the life that is your life to live. We are talking that word you hate destiny here. We can’t escape it. And trying to puts us nose to nose with the essential question, “Whose side are we on?”
Here, we cannot avoid thinking about what we want. We have to think about what we want in order to want what is right for us, in order to live the life that is ours to live. We are not free to live any way we choose, to do whatever strikes our fancy. We cannot live any way we choose and be at home with ourselves, at peace with who we are. We can choose to live in ways that are at cross purposes with our destiny.
We know when things are right and when they are not right. We know when we are working with ourselves, when we are working against ourselves. We know when what we want is serving ends worthy of us, is aligned with the life that is our life to live, and when it is not. We know when we are kidding ourselves. IF we think about it. We avoid the pain of realization by living too fast to listen. Immersing ourselves in the lights and action of Gay Paree, we numb ourselves against the knowledge of having taken a wrong turn, again. We run from emptiness and seek to find a meaningful life in the catalogs, at the resorts and on the showroom floors, while destiny waits.
The good news/bad news is truth does not go away. Truth taps us on our shoulder with symptoms and a nagging sense that things are not right somehow. Emptiness, boredom, restlessness, anxiety all suggest that Paree isn’t it, and it is only a matter of time until we wake up or die with a withered soul. On the other hand, an indication of living in the service of our destiny is passion for life. Passion, enthusiasm, zest, zeal suggest destiny in the making. We cannot be connected with our destiny without being passionate about it, but passion is only an indicator, not evidence, of alignment with our destiny. Lethargy, emptiness, ennui, on the other hand, are evidence of life unlived, of destiny not served. We can be passionate about that which is not destiny. So, we have to think about what we are wanting, and keep an eye on ourselves at all times. Because shooting ourselves in the foot is what we do best.