The math of desire

Happiness is what we all seek, no matter the form or pursuit or path. The traditional “equation” for happiness can be written as such:

Desire + Fulfilment of Desire = Happiness

Part 1: Desire

It pops up as a nudge, urging to to engage in the pursuit of something that usually results in happiness. They include but are not limited to; objects, money, jobs, power, status, people, adventures, experiences, mental states and sensations. This is the part that many are familiar with because it is what occupies the majority of their attention. The reason why is because any desire for something almost always implies its absence from one’s reality in some form or capacity. Would a billionaire be wanting for more money as much as a fresh and debt-ridden graduate? Would a happily married couple be wanting a new relationship outside?

Desires by themselves are neutral, as they are what spur humans to achieve extraordinary feats, or allow people to enjoy a perfectly grilled cheese sandwich. However, due to the nature of desire being the absence of something, a desire of great magnitude must consequently imply a great void that is to be filled.

Part 2: Fulfillment

The second part of the equation is usually the trickier one. Because of the nature of desire, the second part of this equation is dedicated to resolving the former, via the fulfillment of said desire. Through the acquisition of said object of desire, the desire itself fades away as the debt-ridden graduate lands an extremely high-paying job or strikes the lottery.

The part where this equation creates suffering is when said desire is unable (or refuses) to be fulfilled due to whatever mitigating circumstance. The absence remains, and the bearer is unable to rid him/herself of it, akin to an itch that refuses to go away. Consequently, many terrible crimes have been committed with the purpose of fulfilling or quelling said desire, from robberies to wars and genocide. For those who create suffering in their pursuit, their only goal is the fulfillment of their desires at all costs, a singular focus overriding all morality and empathy that the person may have.

Because all desire is born from a symbolic love for ‘something’, therefore it can be said that the root of all evil is in reality a lack of love (or happiness).

Part 3: Happiness

Happiness begins where desire ends.

Happiness as understood by the majority of contemporary civilization lies in the fulfilment of desires. The result is a glorious rise in online shopping platforms and food delivery services that cater to our every whim and fancy, even more so during the pandemic. While this method is convenient, there lies another easier way in which the machinations of desire resolve itself.

In light of spiritual traditions all over the world, the second way in which happiness is practiced comes from an understanding of the mechanics of desire. Firstly, it must be understood that desires are not inherent to human nature, which is another way of saying that desires come and go. Secondly, when the fleeting nature of desire is recognized, that the practitioner abides as the conscious presence/awareness in which desires appear and fade into. This entails meditating on desires as soon as they pop up, playing with them, and observing their fading away from the mind. In this regard, the desire is not treated as problem that must be resolved instantly, but rather as a dance in which the person engages with the universe. Thirdly, the practitioner returns to their daily life as if nothing had happened, though whether they act on said desire is now no longer a compulsion, but rather a choice that arises from a still mind.

The result? Inner peace born from the recognition that happiness is NOT reliant on the fulfillment of desires.

The takeaway:

The techniques and terminologies may vary, from Law of Attraction to Zen Buddhism to Non-duality, but the message is the same. Desire, after all, is a play of the universe, and we are all free to indulge in it if we so choose to.

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