The Illusions of Desire

Allow me to paraphrase from Paulo Coelho’s famous fable The Alchemist:

“If you stop listening to your heart, it will stop speaking to you.”

After my decision to abandon my 1st choice of school and 1st choice of study, I had to ask myself if that had happened to me.

I meditated on this idea and experienced a realization – the philosophy of Coelho’s book implies that your “heart,” a metaphor for dreams and desire – is supposed to be the highest source of wisdom to guide your life with.

Fundamentally, this is foolish thinking. Yes following your desires can lead you to happiness – but there is a higher value than happiness, it is the value I have tried to devote my life to and about which I am writing several books: Sustainability.

Happiness tends to be fleeting and temporary. By definition, an enduring Quality is better – one that can be sustained.

Because I was following my desires in Chicago, I remained an essentially lazy person. I had the idea in my head that I should enjoy myself all the time. I was a pursuer of pleasure, a disciple of happiness. This was at the heart of my failure to publish anything despite a year’s devotion to improving myself as a writer of sustainability issues.

I felt I was following my dream, doing what I was meant to do – which is indeed a powerfully good and self-affirming feeling. Yet I ignored the facts I was going into debt by doing this, spending money I didn’t have. As I got closer to graduation the signs became harder to ignore. The jobs were scarce in the field I desired, and I was not yet mature enough to do the work required to get them. (Because at this time, I pathologically avoided work, procrastinating away from it whenever I could). Even doing what I loved, there was going to be no easy way to make money – it was going to take lots of hard work.

It wasn’t until I decided to come to Texas to move toward a more viable career that the value of work really began to dawn on me. The main reason I left Chicago was because I wanted to write about sustainability, but was not yet even sustaining myself. I could not let myself become a hypocrite, so I resolved to walk a path that would have the best chance of sustaining me. (I could have done this by re-doubling my efforts on the 1st path, however it took sacrificing that for me to understand the error of my thinking, to find the source of my laziness which I was already well aware of but could not comprehend the cause of, and therefore lacked the discipline to remedy.)

The sole pursuit of desire is a short-sighted way to live. Myopic, as some would say. How strange to learn doing what I wanted most was, in a way, bad for me. But now that I have gained this perspective, I have become more free to discipline myself – albeit with less time available than I had in the days where I wasted most hours of the day on entertainment.

My step-father once told me that I could never trust anyone completely – not even myself. He was right.

Now I look forward to a probably better future, and feel more confident that I have made the right decision by leaving Chicago.

My grandfather also gave me some wisdom: There is nothing wrong with profit. Indeed it is essential to survive. (I had been arguing about the immorality of exploitative methods of profit, but this is off-topic).

It is good to have dreams, and it is good to work toward them. But do not let them  blind you, do not let your tunnel vision desire for them prevent you from seeing what needs to be done, and doing it.

Go forth and survive.


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