I’ve never felt complete, or whole, or as if I was exactly where I needed to be. I’ve always felt a wanderlust, and little of it has had to do with geography. I want to see the world as well, but it's my mind that wanders, and my heart that has never been satisfied. It's led to a quarter-life crisis that has become a mid-life crisis- a status quo of questions. I was explaining this to a friend, and she said,
“We’re supposed to thirst.”
When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.
“In what ways?” I asked, immediately wanting to squeeze as much juice as possible from this lemon of insight.
As we spoke, a lot of unrelated lessons became related. The American Dream isn’t about finding something, its about the quest. Religion’s power has to do with possibilities. Athletes always seek to improve their performance. Students always seek to increase their knowledge base. This whole thing we’re doing here, doesn’t revolve around satisfaction, it revolves around thirst. There is no such thing as stasis; everything is in flux.
If we’re made to live in a place of discomfort, does that change the nature of happiness? Yes. Adapt or die. That is a fundamental tenet of life in the wild- however, it is just as aptly applied to life in society. We want to have the comfort of a consistent job, with benefits and a retirement. Even though nature is screaming at us to adapt, we seek ways in which we can avoid it. Ways we don’t have to choose, or be present. And so we undermine the very things that can make our lives meaningful. Conscious choice.
And like it or not, life requires adaptation. Regardless of what socio-economic status you’re in, living demands our attention, and a willingness to change in the face of new information. From a historical perspective, this is a process that has been happening throughout our existence. Ice-age. Stone-age. Bronze. Iron. War. Famine. Plague. Hurricane. War. In the face of massive obstacles, people are incredibly functional and resilient. Abundance can tax a person/society just as much as scarcity, but that’s another blog post.
Thirsting is a similar metaphor to hunger, which are both metaphors for desire. What do we desire?
I’ve only been talking about intellectual questions, here. But it is also clear economically, that an unsatiated thirst for wealth can lead to actions which are not in keeping with a principle-centered life. Apple has done some amazing things for the dissemination of information, however, are app developers as concerned with families breaking apart, or with downloads? People make choices, it is true, but as I’ve observed many of my acquaintances coming home at night, and jumping into their computer, as their children also stare at their devices, I wonder what the long term effects of that will be?
What do we thirst for? What is an appropriate target of our desires? Does there need to be a target? Can wealth be a target? Does the manner in which we go about thirsting matter? Yes. Because of who we become by the things we do. So, thirsting is one thing. Understanding we’re supposed to is another. But understanding we’re supposed to thirst allows us to also understand that within the context of seeking we can be happy with the journey. The way in which we decide to demonstrate our thirst has a symbiotic relationship to the way in which we experience happiness. It is not enough to know that we thirst, and be okay with it. We must thirst after things that are ennobling to us, and to others. That is where happiness lies. Ask a lonely man about happiness, and he’ll tell you there’s no happiness in loneliness. We’re also built in relation to others. And so how we demonstrate our thirst, and thus what experience of happiness we enjoy or not, is always within the context of our relationships.
Maybe that initial insight, “We are supposed to thirst,” should have more emphasis placed on the “we”, than the “thirst.”