I took a lot of classes pass/fail when I was trying to finish up my schooling. I was going further and further in debt, and finding myself in an environment that seemed to encourage people to live their whole life in an academic setting; never venturing into the world of commerce or providing services to mankind. That might seem like an odd way to put it, but after six years going for a simple bachelor’s degree, approaching 30 years old, and accumulating more debt for my gains in study, and no way to pay for it readily apparent, I wanted out of the game, but I wanted my piece of paper saying that I had completed that level. God, I am stubborn.
One of the classes I took pass/fail was World Religions. Like all pass/fail classes I took, as soon as I’d passed the 3rd test, it was enough to pass the course, so I could quit devoting time to that study, and devote more time to the other coursework.
One of the few things I recall from that particular course on religion, and I don’t recall which particular religion it applied to, but it was a simple concept that stood out to me. It was something along the lines of “the source of all unhappiness is want”. Wanting makes unhappiness. Now, there may have been some translation liberties taken. Maybe ‘want’ wasn’t the original word in whatever language the translation came from, but here’s the thing, and why it probably stood out in my mind.
Once upon a time I had dabbled in cocaine use. It was a very intense and pleasurable experience while it lasted. But when the experience passed, it always left an equally intense and not so pleasurable feeling of ‘want’. It got to the point where I observed that the act of obtaining the drug was the beginning of the buzz, without even taking a little bit of the drug, I was already beginning the buzz. I was buzzing about just ‘having’ the drug, and the anticipation was part of its excitement, once I’d obtained it. As my supply dwindled, the anticipation of ‘wanting’ more began to lessen the intensity of the buzz, as anxiety started to set in. Where would I get my next buzz? So, when I took that last hit of the drug, it was both with an anticipation of the short-lived pleasure I would feel, along with the anxious feeling of knowing that I would ‘want’ more.
Now, I’m not sure the ancient philosopher of religion had that in mind when he came up with his theory, but that was how I immediately identified with what he came up with. I understood jonesing for a hit. That was a ‘want’, and it was an unpleasant feeling that caused much anxiety and stress.
I soon came to realise that the only way to avoid that desperate ‘want’ was to avoid the drug. It was an expensive habit, anyway, and the ‘want’ always outlasted the short-lived pleasure.
I could think of other ‘wants’ I have that make me miserable for the wanting of them, but that’s a good start toward explaining something I’ve come to understand and wanted to write about for a while.