Greed and Desire

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We want more. We never have enough. When we perceive lack, sorrow invades, disrupting peace. We push to achieve, possess, and control more. Are we condemned to serving the constant perception of lack or is there something better? Achievement and possessions aren’t evil. We should engage in self-improvement, improving circumstances in our hearts and minds as well as the circumstances of our lives. Gently coasting often leads to a slow deterioration. Human greed—the desire for more—has motivated many great accomplishments and discovery of incredible inventions. Greed and desire intertwine to motivate discovery and poison the soul, finding the correct balance is our task.

We have developed sophisticated systems of technology, production, transportation, and leisure in our never-ending chase for more. We enjoy comforts unparalleled in history. But with the advancement (larger houses, fantastic gadgets, and faster transportation), our anxiety remains.

We still don’t have enough. We desire more. Inventions haven’t stopped—they accelerated. The latest iPhone has exciting new features, new cars have technology advanced luxuries, and modern entertainment thrills with ever more excitement. But not all is well in modern society.

Mental illness, destructive relationships, racism, war, environmental decay and crime continue to plague the earth. Is life better today than a hundred years ago? In many ways we can answer with a resounding, “yes.” But in other significant measurements maybe not. We are still grappling for more.

Greed is Never Satisfied

The mountains of wealth have done little to quench the greed.

The nagging feeling of lack interrupts pleasures in the moment. Oddly, dissatisfaction is a blessing. The gift of dissatisfaction is an inherent part of our humanity. If I have one hundred dollars, I want a thousand. If I have a thousand, I want a million.

​Perhaps, feeling satisfied is so seldom experienced that if feels uncomfortable. Deep in our cells, we can’t stand being content, satisfy a desire, and the freed cognitive space searches for the next thing we don’t have—but want. We want more regardless of what we have.

“We are conditioned by culture to believe that happiness is found through consumption, that a person’s success is determined by whatever they are able to achieve and acquire. The more you have the happier you will be—or, so it is thought.” 

~Brian Thompson | Zen Thinking

Key Definition

Greed is an intense desire for something (money, power, fame) beyond normal motivational hopes.

I believe these feelings are normal; we must create space to manage the pesky feelings of greed, recognizing their existence, and thoughtfully managing by placing healthy limits. Finding peace with what we have and then dwelling in extended satisfaction requires effort; purposely entertaining thoughts of gratitude.

Perhaps, we should consider satisfaction differently. Instead of constantly chasing some emotional state that never can be eternally present, appreciating satisfaction like waves of the ocean; an ebb and flow, coming and going.

Greed Throughout Human History

Greed has been recognized throughout human history for its destructive powers. Many civilizations have tumbled, rotted by the greedy manipulations of money and power hungry people.

The flaming desires of greed unscrupulously tear the fabric of society, many unethically accumulate and stash resources without concern for the hungry or compassion for the unsheltered.

​Greed ruins individuals, families and societies.

​​Many Seek Wealth by Appeasing to Others’  Greedy Desires for More

​​Many flaunt some magical enlightenment, a state of satisfaction and peace. Some I believe have achieved a “higher” state of mind. Many, however, struggle like the rest of us and greedily want to sell their book or a program, hoping your money will quell their constant desire for more.

“We carry within us an insatiable desire for more—a destroyer of contentment; a hankerer of stuff, status and success, that we assume will assassinate our demons, or at least muffle them for a little while, as though the fulfilment of our wants can somehow repair our yearning souls.” 

~Antidote for Chimps

They market their discovery as wellness; but really they just want their portion of our discretionary spending money. I’m skeptical. I believe that becoming rich from selling secrets of success is a side hustle often used by those trying to succeed elsewhere in their lives.

I’m certain some are sincere, successful people with great wisdom; but most, I have found, struggle the same as the rest of us. They try to capitalize on a dream that they have yet to realize themselves.  Certainly, they stumble and hurt just like the rest of us. They preach a path to joyous riches, hoping to satisfy their own sense of lack. False prophets, greedy entrepreneurs and optimistic dreamers prey upon humanities unrelenting drive for more. As long as we sense lack, others will try to capitalize on those feelings.

​Desire for More Motivates Growth

​Biological drives pass from generation to generation because they serve a purpose—a survival value. Driven for more, people develop spiritually, physically and intellectually. We become more competitive than those who settle. Driven to succeed, we become more viable, gathering resources and mental capacity to manage a complex world. The feelings of inadequacy motivate some creative solutions. But we must tame this drive. Often, we seek more than we need, sacrificing other enjoyments and necessities for flourishing.

​​Taming Greed and Desire

​​The compulsion to achieve and accumulate only provides momentarily satisfaction just when goals are reached. The slight breath of relief is quickly engulfed with another target, interfering with prolonged enjoyment; the thirst is only temporarily quenched. We want more money, status, power, security and peace.

But is that what life is always about, constantly chasing a bigger and better dream, a fatter wallet, and a bigger office? The pursuit may serve as a distraction to other broken areas—social ineptitudes or critical self judgments. The healthy drive then morphs into an unhealthy adaptation. Instead of encouraging development, it blinds and misdirects.

Navigating Difficult Emotions

​Desires, impulses and emotions encourage healthy action; but sometimes our internal guidance system is battered from the storms of living, and broadcasts faulty markers. With wisdom we can still navigate the mazes of helpful and hurtful emotional pulls.

We can view our thirst for more, as other emotional tugs, treating the emotion simply as information for us to examine. Sometimes a deep breath, or quiet contemplation can reveal the rascal impulse for what it is—a blend character and past programming.

The feelings that motivate to act, often don’t demand immediate action. We can pause and allow wisdom to intervene. The urges for action, like waves of the sea, come and go. They ebb and flow back and forth. We see much clearer when the wave of emotion recedes, and the yearning no longer demands immediate action.

We Can Free Ourselves From the Perpetual Drive for More

​We don’t have to be a slave to every craving. As our relationship between feeling and action matures, and we gain a wider perspective, the momentary crashing of desire loses some power. We know the momentary demand for action is an illusion. The decision can wait for a calmed mind and practical evaluation.

We benefit from drives to improve—better relationships, more self-esteem, increased compassion and security. We should pursue growth by refining skills and chasing opportunities. But personal growth, doesn’t promise perpetual satisfaction. We can never quench the thirst of greed and desires; the biological urge to obtain more continues to prod and push; underneath our emotional system continues to influence behaviors. We can adjust some emotional settings through mindful thought—but not eliminate vexing emotions.

​We must live with our biological inheritance. If we don’t, we will constantly fight the unmovable walls of existence. By realistically accepting the parameters, we comfortably move with the flow of life, experiencing the ebb and flow of emotions, regulating reactive emotions and responding with behaviors that bring joy.

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