The Downside of Desire
Desire is directly linked to achievements, whether it be the desire to achieve something or the achievement itself. It can be positive, but there is a downside to desire as well. Desire often blinds you to what you already have. Arturo Graf, the Italian poet and writer, said that to feel safe, motivated, and peaceful over the course of our lives, we should desire little and expect even less.
Being unable to fulfill your desires and fulfilling all your desires both have their negative side. It would seem like the latter isn’t bad, but letting yourself get carried away by your desires can drag you down a dead-end road. It’s a kind of vicious cycle in which you’ll never be satisfied.
That being said, should desires obey reason? They don’t have to, but they can easily end up being naive and disproportionate and make you blind to the treasures you already have. Thus, desiring only what you can reasonably attain is key.
“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work, and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.”
-Antoine de Saint-Exupéry-
Desire forces you to want what you don’t have
Why is it so easy to desire something and so difficult to want it? The answer lies in the fact that desire is related to helplessness and wanting something is related to strength.
Before fiercely desiring something, you should carefully analyze the happiness that it gives people who have it. In Ancient Greece, they believed the more desire you plant, the less happiness you harvest. Thus, when you reduce your desires, you increase your strength.
Horacio, one of the most important lyric and satiric poets of all time, approaches desire from a limiting but also enriching perspective. He concluded that he who obtains what is enough shouldn’t desire anything more.
Wishing what you desire is human and necessary. However, dealing with whatever happens is the key to happiness. You might think that you’ll only be happy if you get what you want, but sometimes you start to feel empty as soon as you get it.
According to George Bernard Shaw, there are two tragedies in life. One is not getting what your heart desires and the other is getting it. Heraclitus, the Greek philosopher, believed that it isn’t better for men when they get the things they desire.
To avoid the downside of desire, you should desire something that depends on you
All that being said, we should point out that desire isn’t bad in and of itself. Some desires can make you a better person. Having blind faith in what you want opens the door to self-realization and self-knowledge, the highest peak of human needs. A soul is measured by the breadth of its desires, just like a cathedral is judged by the height of its towers.
Some thinkers even believe that there is only one driving force: desire. That’s why it’s so important to highlight the positive part of a person’s need to achieve their goals. Without this powerful force, we wouldn’t see any great human advancements. Deep down, all of our progress stemmed from irrational desire and a boundless wish to achieve and improve.
The desires in your life form a chain. The links are the hopes you have of getting what you wish for. Perhaps what fascinates us the most about our desires is that they’re the only thing that let you conquer your fears. The downside of desire isn’t the act of desiring, but the way in which you express your needs. Wanting something unattainable is going to make you very unhappy in the long run.
Nevertheless, feeling passionate about achieving a realistic goal is very beneficial. Just like with almost everything else, the key is to wish for things in moderation and within reason.
“Don’t demand or expect that events happen as you would wish them do. Accept events as they actually happen. That way, peace is possible.”
-Epictetus of Phrygia-
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