Irrational desire

by Jon Sullivan - 2022-10-25 - Jonism

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I'm working on aligning my desire with the natural course of things. Desiring what I can have, rather than what I can never/shouldn't have.

[editor's note - This post rambles a bit. It started out as me just exploring real application of Stoic virtues, but then veered into navel gazing. It's not about anything. Just me babbling.]
Part of the goal of Stoicism is to have your happiness fully within your control, no matter what. The best example of this sort of thinking is the Greek advisor Epictetus who was a slave as a young man, and was beaten so badly that he used a crutch the rest of his life. He remained happy by focusing only on things that were within his control. Thus, his desires were few, but they were always met. In effect, he had no desires, only fulfillment.

So for Stoics, in practice, desire is replaced with deliberate action. Hope is replaced with a defined process that will realize the goal. And if no action or plan will lead to the thing I want in a real and meaningful way, I stop hoping for and desiring it. Unfulfilled desire is just misery. Unfulfilled hope is despair. Turning it over in my head endlessly to try and fulfill the unfulfillable desire is self-created misery. It's like a bottle of pills labeled "misery" and I just keep taking them. So I start thinking about whether the hope/desire is really achievable, and if it's not, realize keeping it is nothing but misery. And why would I seek misery? Even if it's not as easy as that, it's still the only math. "Do. Or do not." - Yoda

The reason this comes up is that the "new Jon" is opening up his life to things that have been excluded for decades. If you choose to live in a tiny apartment and never be around other people. Options for ANYTHING are very limited. Entire categories of desire and hope are completely off the table. Anything related to companionship? Not possible. Having nice things? Not possible with a commitment to minimalism. And since the move, the floodgates have sort of opened. I'm buying too much shit. I'm wanting to go too many places. I'm trying to pack too much shit in too small a container. My wants seem endless. Lots of things aren't getting done in the meantime. I don't have time or money for much of it. I need to dial it back, find the things that can be practical realities, and focus there.

If we apply Stoic virtues to the issue - Desires and hope are fine, but approach them with temperance and moderation.

One of the other weird things is my sudden feeling that meeting new people is wonderful. This is so odd.... so not Jon..... so new and unknown..... that I have zero context for it. I feel a strong DESIRE to socialize and be around people. And it worries me. In the past I've always had a wall between myself and others (besides trusted friends and family obviously), but now I just charge in and engage. I've always been self-centered, self-contained, self-absorbed. Always looking inward. Part of me is worried I'll open myself up to danger or hurt or loss. Laugh all you want, but I don't know how to be friendly. People acting the way I'm acting now would make no sense to me a few years ago. I would have assumed they were mental. Yet here I am. So again, need to dial back on the desire. Need to engage moderation and temperance.

I wish I knew. I wish I had a real plausible theory as to why all these powerful changes have just washed over me and altered me so fundamentally. I'm very very happy being new Jon. But old Jon would have me committed. Because he, like I, have no idea what the deal is.

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