I have tried to write this essay several times. I have failed using flowery language, academic speak, spiritual overtones, and psycho-babble. But it never came out the way I wanted. And that is the point of it. Want.
Want is a disease, a psychosis. It is an error of the mind and of the body. It is the flaw in how many of us live. We obsess over what we want for years. We make great art based on our want. It is the barrier to enjoyment and happiness. And not just in big ways.
It is easy to still pine for the person you wanted to kiss when you were sixteen. That small wish may hover inside your mind like a micro-tumor, but it is probably benign. What hurts us more is the want of the moment.
You are sitting in a long line of cars wanting a light to turn green. It turns and only one car gets through. And you want it to be different. The person you share your life with cannot read your mind, cannot do, seemingly, anything right, and you want them to be different.
Want distances you from this moment. It allows you to hide inside another, imaginary, more ideal reality. It suggests you should hold this life up against that ideal one and compare the two, a pageant which this moment will always lose. I want to be taller, want shorter, want skinnier, want stronger.
But let’s separate want from action. There is a moment not yet lived that you can choose into. The future must be shaped, and we can use it to reach towards an ideal. We can work for change. But that is not want, that is taking action.
I am lying in bed, in the middle of the night. I wake with my mouth open and bone-dry. I can ease myself out of bed, walk to the sink and have a glass of water. In the morning I can purchase a humidifier. Next month I can move to a coast or a rainforest.
Or I can sit here in want, hating this arid moment, imagining my imaginary ease. The distance in time between a felt need and the action to answer that need is want. And it is killing us. Every moment in want is a moment wasted, a moment of this life, right here, now, gone.
Each moment is far bigger than you can inhabit, larger than you can imagine. If you envision now throughout the whole globe, and know you could live on almost any inch of that, you start to see now. If you imagine how tiny the earth is to the universe, you start to sense the size of now.
Each moment offers you something to hate, something to love, something to act on, something to want. Worse than loving or hating, wanting means you do not inhabit this moment. It steals here and now from you. It makes our conscious life fly by us, miniscule and quick.
I want to exercise more, compared to exercising. I want to forgive someone, compared to actively forgiving. I want to write is worse than awful writing. I want to focus on my family. I want to eat better. I want to let go. I want to feel love. I want to live, before I want to die.
In little ways and big we are handing over this, here, now, to our imagination. Not for the sake of a deeper contemplative life, but simply to fill a compost heap with moments, one that rots as soon as it hits the here-air. We are wasting our lives in wanting, trashing this opportunity at being.