What you Want and What you’ll Get in Life are Two Different Things
Christmas is on Saturday. That means I’ve already wrapped the presents, and they’re ready to be placed under the tree. The boys got the things they wanted and Mely got what she wanted. I think I even got what I wanted. We’ve been having a good Christmas season, and the presents are going to be good, too. But, I woke up this morning thinking about, if there really was a Santa Claus that magically made my material desires come true, what I would want if I thought I could actually get it. People usually spend their time pretty firmly set in reality when it comes to gift requests. They say to themselves, “What can I get that’s within reason?” “I don’t want to be greedy so I’ll just ask for something simple.” “I shouldn’t want things so I’ll just pretend I don’t want them.” Let’s face it, though, even the stoics, if you were to press them, would admit that they want things. Their superiority lies in the fact that they can deny their body for the benefit of their mind, not that they make the desires go completely away. We’re human after all. There’s no shame in admitting you want things even if you know you can’t get them.
So I ask myself, “Keith, what do you really want?” World peace? Sure, I guess. But, no, because most people are idiots and, given world peace, would just start new wars (Getting world peace doesn’t guarantee sustained peace unless everybody were to also get lobotomized which I definitely don’t want). A mansion? No, I don’t want a mansion. Even if I was given a mansion, I wouldn’t want it because it goes against my nature. How about a nice new car? Yeah! I could go for that. But first I need a house so I have somewhere to keep it. Okay, a nice house (by my standards) and a car. After that it gets a little confusing because most of my wishes revolve around things for the boys. I want tennis lessons for Neil, and swimming lessons for Alan. A big thing—I want them both to have money for college, which of course would do no good if money isn’t worth anything in 15 years—I’m thinking Bedazzled where the devil asks you what you want and then makes sure that no matter what you ask for it turns out horrible. I guess Santa wouldn’t do that, would he?
In other words, folks, I want the same things everybody wants. I want a little security. I already have happiness, and that’s good because, despite the claim that Santa spreads cheer, I think it’s limited to holiday cheer. Santa’s specialty is giving presents. He doesn’t do inner peace and harmony. Christmas is fun, and you get to ask for things that you might have denied yourself all year. But, if you’re depressed around the season because you see all the money flying around and people making merry, don’t worry about it. It’s okay to want things on Christmas. We all want things on Christmas. But, getting what you want is a double edged sword. Yes, it’s great to receive presents provided presents are rare and special. But, too many presents act on a spirit in the same way too many antibiotics work on bodies. We build up resistance and we need more and more to fix what pains us.
Why are my desires so simple? It’s because I haven’t had many presents. I don’t have the ability to get everything I want. It has nothing to do with being more self aware or pious. If I got those things then I might want more. If I then got those other things then I’d need to want something else. In the past, when I was tested, I failed. Who’s to say I wouldn’t fail again? The person who can deny themselves when they don’t have to is rare. Christmas, for the people who have the ability to have the things they want, is a struggle to resist temptation. Those people who recognize the danger have the most ability to enjoy their Christmas for what it should be. Unfortunately, I don’t think most people understand the danger in having too many things. But, you’re probably like me. You probably want a bunch of stuff that you can’t have. So, if you had the ability, if Santa really did grant wishes, what would you want?
THE OLD STOIC
by Emily Brontë (1818-1848)
Riches I hold in light esteem,
And Love I laugh to scorn;
And lust of fame was but a dream
That vanished with the morn;
And, if I pray, the only prayer
That moves my lips for me
Is, ‘Leave the heart that now I bear,
And give me liberty!’
Yea, as my swift days near their goal,
‘Tis all that I implore:
In life and death a chainless soul,
With courage to endure.