The Philosophy of Wanting

There are a million and one quotes by famous people about wanting. How to get what you want, how to keep after what you want, how to get over wanting…the list goes on. But the common theme of wanting remains, no matter how you spin it.

To “want” literally means to have a desire to possess or do (something); to wish. It can also mean the actual lack of something desirable. But if there’s one thing I understand about being a twenty-something (and really just about being a human), it’s that we all want for something, no matter how you define it.

We want the new iPhone 6 because our old 5 is too slow. We want to live near our friends and have jobs we love that also pay enough to cover the exorbitant costs of rent. We want unlimited Netflix and Spotify streaming for free and a full complement of quality television shows to binge. We want love from our friends, our family, and our partners. We want purpose and satisfaction from our daily lives. We want what we can’t have, what others have, and what we don’t understand.

Is there ever a moment when we stop wanting, when we look inside ourselves and say that we’re fulfilled? When we’re lying on our deathbeds, our breath wheezing slower and slower from our lungs, will we then say that we’ve finally had enough? Enough love, enough purpose, enough time?

Or is wanting the very essence of life itself? For if it is in fact the desire for more, or for difference, or for change that motivates action, than without want we would cease to be.

I know that I’ll never stop wanting to grow as a person, that I’ll never stop wanting something better and different and more challenging for myself to experience, but I also hope to one day understand my desires in the present and not just in hindsight. Right now I find myself overwhelmed and confused by all the wants that I have, so much so that it makes it difficult to act on any one of them. I get pulled in different directions when all I really want is a straight path of wants leading one to another.

But I’m only human and as humans we have opportunities and options, divergent paths that change with our choices and continuously expand heedless of any actions. Is it a blessing or a curse, I wonder, to always be able to want and never achieve complete satisfaction?

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