Buddhists believe that only when we are free from desire are we ready to achieve bliss. I’m not a government-registered Buddhist, but I have read a bit about them and they seem all right. I like that part about the love and oneness and fair treatment of all folks and that’s how we’ll all enjoy paradise together. Like whatshisname said. Jesus.
I thought they might be right about the desire stuff, so I’ve been keeping a log of my daily desires, the stuff that pops up in my head in the middle of all the sexy thoughts. (The iPhone is considered a sexy thought.) And when I look at the list, I realize that if I didn’t desire all this stuff—or at least if I had it already—I’d probably be a lot happier.
Catalogue Of Desires
October 11th, 2007
10:37 A.M.–– Pancakes
This is generally how I start all my days (except that this day began a little earlier than usual). This is a great first desire to have, because when I actually fulfill it and eat a stack of pancakes, I feel terrible for the next five hours. Desire doesn’t fill you up; it bloats you roly-poly.
11:12 A.M.––A giant griddle
This desire always comes saddled with the pancake one. When using a single pan to make pancakes for two, look forward to a long wait, which means a lot of NPR, house-cleaning, and a bowl of cereal while the pancakes take their sweet time coming. And don’t ever eat them as they come off the stove. Save them in the oven until they’re all done. Otherwise you’ll eat one and get sick and have all that batter left over. And how else are you going to test your fortitude in the morning than with a stack of syrup-saturated pancakes that get less pleasant by the forkful?
12:07 P.M.––A big flat TV
Now I feel gross and immobile. It’s past noon. There’s a sink full of dishes. I haven’t showered or shaved. I’ve been up for almost two hours and haven’t accomplished anything. This is how the day starts. I just want to sit down in front of a big TV and wait until my impetus slingshots back and picks me up again.
12:46 P.M.––An impetus
I forgot that I never really received one. Ever. Except the fall from the womb. Which is just enough to get me to the grave. Not quite enough to get me to turn off Veronica Mars.
12:47 P.M.––Six more seasons of Veronica Mars
Hey, bliss is nice and everything, but can it really be better than Veronica Mars? Like, is enlightenment really so great that I’m going to be cool with the fact that all of the ingredients for a great entertainment are just sitting there, unused? Is that what nirvana is, the ability to say, “Even though mankind can come together to make a great thing and keep it great forever, we’re not going to because chilling out is so much better”?
1:22 P.M.––Time machine or past military service
This is when I begin my daily ablutions. Shower. Shave. Then I get dressed. I always go about it grumpily and wish for either a time machine to go back and wake up at eight o’ clock and start my day right or military training so I’d be disciplined enough to get a proper start everyday. Usually these desires serve to pass the time easily, because I either start thinking about the possibility of time travel in a post-Einstein universe—future travel is possible; past travel may be possible if wormholes exist and can be manipulated—or the adventures I would have if I were a more physical, worldly man, and how one might get into the work of treasure hunting, which, really, is what all of us want to do.
2:31 P.M.––Wes Anderson’s life
Globe-trotting filmmaker with homes in Paris and New York. Critical and popular cachet. Carte blanche. Taste. Style. Money. Interesting friends. Talent. There you have it. And not just him, and not that he’s even my favorite filmmaker. He just kind of embodies that mode right now. (And this desire comes up at just this time because I have once again sat down in front of a blank screen and begun to wait for lightning to strike the top of my pointy little head.)
Over an hour into writing, I’ve gotten past the stage at which I just stare and think for fifteen minutes and the next stage of sporadic and sometime brilliant composition. Now, spent, I really wish I had Tetris on my computer, which I used to have, until I started playing right through the time I should have been writing. It made the whole process easier, but, like with pancakes, I just felt terrible afterward.
4:46 P.M.––A new computer battery
“Goldarn sumbitch piece of––! Used to last over three hours! Just when I was about to write something really first-rate!”
5:02 P.M.––A more compassionate world
At just the time that I start preparing for dinner (shopping for a half-hour, prep for an hour or more, cooking for up to an hour), I begin to wish people would just wake up and realize you’ve got to love everyone, including yourself, your enemies, and all the animals the Lord has given you dominion over. Because if we achieved this, all fear and violence would disappear, and we would all work together to create an earthly paradise. Eden is not such a lofty goal. And I might just have a place to eat tonight, one restaurant in this whole country that didn’t fry up the decomposing flesh of an unclean animal and dress it in the dirty, pus-tainted milk of oxen or some other animal that wasn’t put here to give us suck.
5:43 P.M.––Gordon Ramsay’s kitchen
Well, as long as I’m cooking everyday—a task I do enjoy so long as I can choose not to do it once in a while—I should be doing it in a blissed-out cuisine like Chef Ramsay’s. Well-lit, large, and stocked with beautiful equipment, from convection oven to high-quality knives. A great big cutting board, a huge refrigerator, and a herb garden. When cooking frustrates me, it’s always because of the equipment I’m using.
See, how does this desire thing work? If I desire more salt in my mushroom stroganoff, does that put me on the wrong path? Should I just let it go? And if so, doesn’t that path become a bit austere? Like, I wouldn’t be eating stroganoff anyway, but raindrops or something like that.
8:04 P.M.––A renegotiated contract with God on this whole sustenance thing
I overeat a bit. I like food. I’m a ripping-good cook, and I make a lot of food. And when dinner’s over, I enjoy a buffet dessert, one of everything in the house. But the way it’s worked out, I can’t get into the Vegan Society because no one believes someone as [stocky, muscular] as me could live on pansies. And I can’t believe it either. In some respects, I’m already close to the Buddha.
After dinner, I’ve done all my work for the day. (Backtrack; you’ll find work in there somewhere.) From here on, I’m pretty much enlightened. A full belly, good music (stolen from the internet, so there wasn’t too much desire involved), a movie or a TV show, and quality time with my sweetheart leaves few of my needs unanswered for.
Although, when I didn’t have a sweetheart, nighttime was when my desires became most intense. But that’s all fixed now. Desires satisfied. And it’s made me somewhat happier. I guess I don’t really understand the Buddha’s beef with want. If I didn’t want anything, we wouldn’t be connected now. If none of us wanted anything, we’d pretty much all be down by the river or wherever, mouths gaped, drooling, unable to communicate except through grunts. And all the grunts meant, “I feel great.” Even if we didn’t feel that great, like if we had smallpox, we’d believe we felt great, because we had no unfulfilled desires. But really we kind of wanted a cure for smallpox, except there was no cure because no one ever asked for one.
So, through this reasoning, you can see why it’s important that I get that big TV and that awesome kitchen and the salt (which I already took). It’s our collective destiny. Progress and all. Checks can be sent to the address on the right.