Sheryl Crow in her song "Soak up the Sun" says, "It is not having what you want, it's wanting what you've got." Every culture seems to have a phrase that describes a hidden weakness. For example, many intellectuals in Northern Europe say, "If you are happy, you are an idiot," which creates a double bind that is hard to escape. Here in the USA it seems to be, "This is not it, and I am not satisfied," which creates continual striving. This is more economically productive, but also creates a double bind that leads to unhappiness.
Why Are We So Unhappy?
Philosophers, spiritual teachers and most religions say that we are spiritual beings living in the material world. Most see this as the cause of unhappiness. They see the material world as a place of suffering or, at best, a place to prepare for the next world, which is much more pleasant. Suffer here and you will get your reward in heaven. This, of course, is another way of saying, "This is not it, and I am not satisfied." In our consumer economy your reward comes when you "make it." In religion, it is in the next world. Happiness is always in the future. Not a good thing. No matter how much you have there is always more, and what you have is often falling apart.
Is The Material World Really The Problem?
My understanding of the "Material World," or what philosophers call form, is the following: All form emerges out of a formless intelligence, which is often called God. This intelligence is expressing itself in form, which is based on duality or differences. For example, you cannot see black without white. This duality splits into many parts, thus creating the array of things in this world including ourselves, trees, the oceans, the air we breathe, lakes, rivers and all living things.
This formless intelligence is continually creating new forms. Each form comes into existence, grows to its full radiance, shrinks back and dies. All forms are infused moment to moment with this divine intelligence, which I call "The Life Force." We are all full of this force. All the beauty that naturally unfolds every second is filled with this mysterious force. Yet we often feel empty. The Buddhists have a phrase for those who feel this way; they call them "Hungry Ghosts."
"Hungry Ghosts" are always trying to fill themselves not realizing that they are already filled with divine energy. They are over-eating, and over-spending, trying to find things to fill the void, which does not really exist. They can never be satisfied. The whole process of "having what you want" draws our consciousness away from, "what we've got." Form is like fountains of beauty flowing all around us from the well of divine intention. Yet we are always looking for something else. That is why philosophers are telling us to "Be Here Now" instead of hoping for something in the future that does not exist. Happiness is turning our consciousness to "what we've got," which is beyond description.
How Do We Lose Touch With Beauty?
Last week, I went to lunch at a restaurant that always has new paintings. Waiting for my lunch date, I found myself entranced by a beautiful painting of a naked woman looking at her self in a tall mirror. The colors and the moment of her seeing her own beauty sent chills up my spine. My lunch date arrived and came over to the painting and had the same experience. We talked about the creation this artist provided for us. Then we looked at the price, which was very high, and thought, we cannot have this painting. Suddenly we felt disappointed with a sense of loss, when in fact we had already experienced the beauty. The artist created something that touched us until our desires to own it broke our connection to this existing beauty. We did not realize that we already had it.
This is what happens to us moment to moment as we move our consciousness from the miracle of who we are, a living being full of grace, to who we should be or want to be. We lose touch with what the painting was trying to tell us, we are all beautiful beyond description. If we could only see that to live in human form is a gift we often squander trying to feed our desires.