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Tuesday, June 14, 2016

GENIE IN A BOTTLE


There are many popular versions of the age-old tale featuring the genie that emerges from the lamp to grant three wishes. Many of them end with the third wish being to erase/undo the first two. In other words, be careful what you wish for, because you just might get it. Desires bring strings and can beget problems. Having a desire instantly creates a limitation or lack in your life. Suddenly you are missing something and are incomplete. This is what happened to the American Indians. The "white man came across the sea," as Iron Maiden sings, and finding a new market for his wares created a dependency on whisky and tobacco, vices which the Indians had not known, at least not to the degree that trade with the Europeans caused. An example closer to home is Apple, with its relentless onslaught of new technology that will be extinct by the following year, creating an ongoing dependence in the user. Without desires, you are truly free. Which is why Christ advised to give away everything and follow him, Buddha abandoned his regal life to walk among the commoners, and the Hindu scriptures drum it into our heads to be desireless. And why I don't have a phone.

One embodiment of these scriptures, the holy man Sathya Sai Baba, has said: "Something you have held, seeking something to hold. Hold on to it firm and fast. Something you have asked for, though asking is not needed. Well, stay on till the gift is granted. Some resolution you have entertained in your mind though you have no need to resolve. Still, knock at the door until it opens and your resolution is fulfilled. Either God must grant you the thing you crave, unable to withstand your yearning, or you realize the absurdity and the audacity and thus conquer the wrong yearning."

It is difficult to suppress or deny a desire once it emerges, although overcoming a craving is possible. Generally, there are two options. You can fulfill the desire. Say you want to earn a six-figure salary. So you get a job that provides this, perhaps first going to school to earn the degree that your intended profession requires. You become what you desire, do it for a time. Maybe you become unfulfilled, bored. Maybe you are so busy that all the money in the world won't make you happy because you have no energy to enjoy it. By fulfilling your desire you extinguish it, and the next time a desire arises that requires lots of energy and time to fulfill, you will be aware of the price, and it will be easier to overcome what you want, because you are already fulfilled and are what you seek. The other option is that you become frustrated in your pursuit of the desire. Say you want to earn the six-figure salary by becoming a famous musician, the next Britni Spears, who sang about genies. Or was it Aguilera? You take the lessons, join a band, play your gigs, but still after years and even decades, you never make it big. You are doomed to anonymity and penury and instead become Meryl Streep in Ricki and the Flash. Perhaps because you haven't enough talent or charisma, are in the wrong band, or lack the luck and haven't gotten the breaks that all successes require at least to some degree. 


The desire, in its frustration, is fulfilled, and ever the wiser you think twice about pursuing the next course of action leading to the attainment of the most recent want, knowing that whether you get it or not, you will not be satisfied. I have known both sides of this tragic coin. Devoting 5 years of my life to becoming a doctor only to realize what I always knew, that medicine wasn't for me. And devoting 2 decades to making it big as a writer until an endless string of failures beat the urge out of me. Then, like me, you realize the absurdity of wanting anything, and the audacity of worldly pursuits. You wind up back where you started, but now you are finally content. Hopefully before you're old and gray. Start stanching the flame of desire today.


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