The Quality Of Desires
We measure the quality of the objects we desire, but how do we measure the quality of the desire itself?
I desire a lot of things, which means I get blinded in the pursuit of a lot of things. While I pursue them, they seem to be of the greatest-quality as long as they are unattainable, but once I attain them, or get even slightly close to them, I start to see the low-quality side of them and then I lose interest but can’t backtrack and get messed up for a long long while. This is what has been happening constantly in my life.
For example, once upon a time, when I thought I desired to work with so and so, I told myself that the person was the greatest deal. I looked up at that person and drooled for any attention that person would give me. But, when I really did work with that person, I started hating him and was disgusted by him. I started distancing myself from the person and the work and have done so till this day.
Such instances have made me question the things that I desire before I pursue them blindly. Although I haven’t been very successful at it, I have been doing my best!
For example, during the recent parliamentary elections in Nepal — seeing many nominated young blokes promote themselves — I had a desire to participate in Nepali politics. Which means I looked upon Nepali politicians as professionals of high-quality. But, instead of meeting a friend and talking about starting a political party for the next elections, I stayed in my room and convinced myself that being a Nepali political leader isn’t a very glamorous and lucrative thing as you have been imagining (after all, this nation hardly exists in the world map)! Which means being a Nepali politician is a low-quality profession. And I have managed to quieten myself, although I don’t know for how long because there is always a but…hovering around.
Yes, that person is of low-quality but there are many who think and even worship him for being of high-quality! Yes, Nepali politicians are of low-quality I say, but there is a reason why many live and die to become one!
This way, I get into a heavy moral quandary which usually ends in me doubting myself.
That’s why, I have decided to go a step deeper. Instead of scrutinizing the quality of the object that I desire, I have decided to scrutinize the desire itself.
For example, instead of questioning the person I desire to work with, I question the ‘desire-to-work-with’ itself. Similarly, instead of questioning the Nepali politics as a profession, I question the ‘desire-of-politics’ itself.
Which means, while the thing may be of the highest-quality in general, I ought to be concerned with my desires only. The desire that makes me pursue that thing irrespective of the objective quality of the thing.
Xyz may be great, but is it great for ME?
And what I look to do is categorize those desires on the basis of their quality.
BUT, HOW DO I DETERMINE THE QUALITY?
ON WHAT BASIS DO I DO IT?
I can determine the quality of the thing desired on the basis of my concept of general good and bad of a thing. If a person who hasn’t read Bukowski is good, the person who hasn’t read him is bad, and therefore of low-quality. Similarly, if a profession makes you obliged to a lot of folks, it is bad, therefore of low-quality.
But, I read a critique of Bukowski and realize that he isn’t essentially good, or I notice something and realize that obligation isn’t fundamentally bad.
And so arises the quandary!
But if I focus on the quality of the desire itself, I get freed from the general ethics and morality and start focusing on myself in particular.
This provides me the first tool to determine the quality of the desire:
‘Is the desire good for ME?’
Which firstly demands me to decide what is good and bad for me. Fuck what is good and bad for the world, it is about what is good and bad for me. Which means, I have to not only understand myself inside-out but also design myself in whatever way I have to based on that understanding.
This forms the basis.
Let me share something with you:
I am a person who abhors reverence (both towards me from others and towards others from me). — I reached to this conclusion long ago based on my introspection and my decision that this is what I will stand for. Which makes reverence a bad thing for me. Therefore, any desire which demands reverence is a low-quality desire for me. Yes, reverence objectively might be a great thing…but its desire is not (for me.)
Next time, I have a desire to work with xyz, I tell myself it’s a low quality desire and run away from it ASAP. Similarly, the desire for knowledge is good for me. Next time, I sense an opportunity to learn something, I go for it.
This way, I don’t have to bother myself with the person or the thing. I don’t have to bother about their quality. I don’t have to be disturbed by their nature. They can be great for themselves or the world, what matters to me is what desire I hold towards them and whether that desire is of my intended quality or not. Of course, I need to try to understand and design myself all the time for that.
There is no objective quality of desires. If there was, the entire human affair would be sheepish and monotonous. Desires, therefore, are private affairs and that’s the beauty of them.
So, in order to determine the quality of a desire, the desirer should be able to understand and design him/herself and decide which are good and bad based on those things.
While I hear politicians and billionaires talk about changing-the-world, I can now quietly sip my tea and listen to them instead of wondering whether I have made a mistake by not pursuing a world changing, universe-denting endeavor. For me, changing-the-world isn’t a high quality desire, although I do consider changing-the-world a quality thing and wouldn’t mind befriending a person who changes-the-world.
This wasn’t the case before the idea of checking a desire’s quality because I would be driving myself crazy thinking about whether world-changing is a quality thing or not.
In terms of desire for more mundane objects such as cold drinks, sunglasses or watches, I now want to spend more time debating with myself whether my desire to purchase/consume them is of quality or not, instead of restlessly fidgeting over which one to purchase. Which means, I will be spending even more time with myself than around objects which seems a more worthy ‘shopping.’