What people want
George G Clark, 04 November 2009
Different people want different things, and patterns change with age and experience. By mapping the most usual patterns we can figure our own present and possible future patterns.
So what do people want? Hinduism recognises four great aims - pleasure, worldly success (wealth, fame and power), dutifulness to society, and liberation. The first two involve satisfying selfish desires and the second two involve moving beyond selfish desire.
There is nothing ‘wrong’ with any of these and it is possible (if unusual) to be a selfish pleasure seeker who dies happy and content. Many people, however, eventually weary of chasing fleeting pleasures and worldly success. They feel, often in mid life, as if there must be more to being human than this. There can then be despair (the legendary existential crisis!) and a change of direction from the path of desire to the path of renunciation.
Note that the path of renunciation has two variations - (a) a push away from ‘lesser’ things (the legendary world weariness) and (b) a pull towards ‘higher’ things. And there are two paths on the road to higher things - (a) selfless service to the community (duty beyond the call of the selfish ego) and (b) retreat from attachment to worldy stuff and thus, through stillness, to spiritual liberation.
“Pleasure is not wicked but it is too trivial to satisfy one’s total nature.” Smith (p14)
“The glamour of yesterday I have come to see as tinsel.” Anon
“ Wealth, fame and power - you can’t take it with you.” Anon
“The guiding principle is not to turn from desire until desire turns from you.” Smith (p17)
“When they find themselves crying ‘Vanity, vanity, all is vanity!’ it may occur to them that the problem stems from the smallness of the self they have been scrambling to serve.” Smith (p18)
“There comes a time when one asks even of Shakespeare, even of Beethoven, is this all?” Aldous Huxley
“What if the interests of the self were expanded to the point of approximating a God’s eye view of humanity?” Smith (p23)
“Detachment from the finite self or attachment to the whole of things - we can state the phenomenon either positively or negatively. When it occurs, life is lifted above the possibility of frustration and above ennui.” Smith (p240
“Such power as I possess for working in the political field has derived from my experiments in the spiritual field.” Gandhi
So - where would you pinpoint yourself on the map?
What do you want?
 This note draws heavily on Huston Smith (1991) “The World Religions - Our Great Wisdom Traditions.” ISBN 0062508113