Sunday, October 21, 2007

A contest of wills?

In recent posts I have expressed scepticism that I can fix my problem with will power. The basic problem is that it is really hard not think of pink elephants when asked not to.

We are both locked in a contest of wills: she refuses to give me anything and I refuse to give up. More particularly, I refuse to give up my desire - I gave up any expectation of realising my desires long ago.

Releasing the expectations had the beneficial effect of eliminating conflict between us - I kept out of her way. But I do think that it had the paradoxical effect of wrapping the desires in a cocoon where they became insulated from the hard knocks of reality.

Why do I hold so strongly onto desires that are unrealisable? Why can't I give these up too? I don't really know the answer to that.

Perhaps I should try to find out.


Anonymous The Other One said...

Buddhists have something to say on this topic:

“Earthly Desires Are Enlightenment”

One side tells us to suppress desires because they are nothing but trouble—the suppression or even denial of desire should be celebrated as a sign of virtue. Meanwhile, the other tells us that human desire is natural (and good!); that we should trust our feelings and desires, and do whatever they move us to do, so long as we do not infringe on the rights of others. Experience, however, tells us that neither the suppression of nor abandonment to desires leads to satisfaction in life. Then how do we live with the reality of our abundant desires and still become happy and fulfilled?

The answer soon revealed is that "this Buddhist concept tells us that our desires and suffering — all that torments our mind — can be the source of wisdom and happiness."

It sounds like you are moving along that path already. Why indeed should you give up those desires if they are leading to wisdom and happiness? Perhaps the wisdom comes from conquering the desire - it must change in some way for you to change too.

To be bluntly reductionist now, this desire is nothing more than traces of certain chemicals floating around in your brain, being triggered by this neuron or that neuron. Everybody has them - indeed people with neurological problems have much more severe imbalances (and corresponding behavioural abnormality). To digress a little, high functioning savants like Kim Peek show us that there are profoundly different ways which brains can work; our concept of normalcy is as it is primarily because it's the most common. We can't conceive of the thought processes of radically different minds (such as aliens, when we eventually start to communicate with them).

Getting back on track. I doubt that brains can heal themselves except in the most minor of ways. This desire of yours is probably one of those things, and bringing it out on your blog, talking about it with friends and so on is helping you to resolve whatever it is, even if it doesn't seem that way.

21 October 2007 at 23:11  
Anonymous The Other One said...

Officialdom stands in the way of public's right to know

... showing that the Government, when they're in the wrong, never gives up. Haneef was exonerated but remains in Bangalore, unable to return to AU because a petty Immigration Minister cancelled his visa. And now they're attacking Haneef's lawyer.

22 October 2007 at 10:27  
Blogger Jon Seymour said...

Thanks for that. I have certainly not been a believer in suppressing desires. I thought it was enough to suppress the unsociable behaviours that might result from excessive desire. After all, if I don't harm anyone, whose business is it what desires I have?

Now I think I may be starting to appreciate the purely selfish benefits of reining in desire. Why suffer unnecessarily? More on this my next post...

22 October 2007 at 21:10  

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