Posts Tagged ‘craving’

Americans are hungry

November 18, 2011

Americans are hungry.

Worse than war, wherein countrymen bind together against a common enemy, hunger pits brother against brother, mother against child. It erodes neighborhoods and rips at the fabric of society in destructive ways that war cannot.

Americans are hungry. Not for food (some are) but for things. We hunger for this, and we thirst for that. What is it that we hunger for? We want it all. Perhaps not, but we want too much. We all hunger endlessly.

It’s been said that Earth can provide enough for man’s needs, but cannot provide enough for his greed. I would say in our case, rather than greed, it’s hunger we face; an endless hunger for things. And it’s breaking us apart. This is undeniable.

We consume assiduously. We justify this, for consuming the things we desire brings us happiness.

Yet it’s also been said that the two greatest disappointments in life are not getting what we want, and getting it. For only after we get the things what we want, do we long for yet something else. It’s an endless wanting. At what point does it end, this wheel of wanting and acquiring?

And in this pattern of desire and acquire, we use, waste and damage an inexorable amount of natural resources, and it’s killing our natural world. This too is undeniable.

Today an old friend and I exchanged idea about new discoveries being made in science. To think there are deep mysteries still to be discovered – many of which could drastically alter our world as we know it – is immensely inspiring and exciting on a planet in peril. But man has a poor track record of using such discoveries of the world to better his situation in it.

And here, in the greatest nation in the world, and with the greatest potential in the history of man, we have a choice – each of us: To divide and conquer, chasing material happiness, or to conquer our own hunger and find satisfaction in living with less.

Everyone wants to change the world, but few are willing to change themselves.

If we were to put in an honest day’s work, and were mindful about how we spend our earnings, we could all earn enough to survive and be comfortable. But that’s not enough for us. We want more than survival and comfort. We chase material things that our culture has trained us to believe will make us happy. It’s not our fault. It’s not our culture’s fault. It’s just what has happened to us, and we’ve been this way for some time now.

What’s worse, many of us have fallen into the habit of living outside of our means. Worse still, there are institutions who cater to this and promise us material possessions right now, at a ludicrous and often impossibly higher price later. It’s not honest, but it’s not their fault. It’s not our fault. It’s just what we’ve become, voracious consumers.

But we justify this, because we think this or that purchase decision will brings us happiness. It might bring us momentary happiness, better described as pleasure, but this too fades, and we soon discover something else that if we could only get in our hands, would bring us lasting happiness. But it doesn’t.

This cannot go on.

It is fortunate that America, in tandem with much of the rest of the planet, is in the midst of revolution.

As with any revolution, new ideas emerge as dominant forces in society. Ideally, as we transition, we would do right to infuse family values into our societal structures.

For in the family, within the walls of our own homes, we seek to complete – rather than compete against – one another. We put our own needs behind the needs of our spouse and our children. And we work not for our own gain and happiness, but for their gain and happiness, which in turn makes us happy.

The ability of the human mind is amazing. But better still, the capacity of the human heart is endless. It is possible for us to care for others outside our walls, just as we care for those within. This we know as we have all learned to love and accept friends and neighbors – otherwise complete strangers – as family.

Albert Einstein, his life a testament to the potential of both the mind and heart, made many contributions to our world. Chief among them was this pearl of wisdom:

“A human being is part of a whole, called by us the Universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separated from the rest; a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circles of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.

In a single word: altruism.

By now, is widely understood and accepted that altruism is the richest source of lasting human happiness on the planet. But like any human ability, altruism must be developed. We have done poorly as a nation to develop altruism. Most of us have instead focused on “number one” and almost exclusively on individual monetary gain. We worship the dollar in America. This cannot be denied. And having been focused intently on currency, we have come to recognize the term, “E pluribus unum” (Out of many, one)

But in our pursuit of money, the means to material gain, our nation has shifted toward “pluribus,” and far away from “unum.”

We are a nation of fragmented individuals. We started this way, and it has been thus ever since. But when confronted by a common enemy, and only when confronted by a common enemy, few nations spring to unity like the United States of America.

But I intuit that this century, unlike the previous, will not be a time of war against foreign enemies.

Our struggle will instead be here, within our own borders. And our greatest enemy will be ourselves – not each other – but ourselves.

It is possible that Americans in the 21st century will live free of war. Still, peace will not be achievable unless we are also free from hunger.