The Acrimony of Desire
On The Sadness Spawned By Our Ego
From the deepest of desires often come the deadliest of hates — Socrates
That’s the thing about depression: A human being can survive almost anything, as long as she sees the end in sight. But depression is so insidious, and it compounds daily, that it’s impossible to ever see the end — Elizabeth Wurtzel, Prozac Nation
It is often said: “lonely lies the head that wears the crown” but what is never said is that lonely lies the heart that beats alone. What I mean by that is: today, more than ever, everyone needs a support system to fall back on as we chase our desires alone. In Malcolm Gladwell’s book ‘Outliers’, he talks about the town of Roseto in Italy. He talks about a physician Stuart Wolf who attempts to find out the reasons behind the absence of serious medical problems in people from that town despite a cholestrol rich diet. He soon discovers the answer: a community that helped its troubled during times of need. Today, Roseto has grown to encompass the whole world and depression is a global epidemic. It is common sense, then, that the human ego needs to be set aside to tide over this epidemic. This article looks at the reasons behind this epidemic and solutions that could help combat this deep malaise.
Humans of The World
Brandon Stanton, the creator of Humans of New York went broke. I don’t mean money wise. I mean company wise. He was alone in New York City. He didn’t know anyone and spent all of his days photographing strangers. He confessed, on the Tim Ferriss show, that he hadn’t felt that lonely before. Today, we know him as the influencer with 20 million Facebook followers who has traveled 30 countries to do the exact same thing as he did in New York.
This is not an isolated incident. It is an epidemic of global proportions. Health Insurer Cigna took a survey of 20,000 Americans and found that half of them suffer from loneliness. As per the American Psychological Association, 42.6 million adults over age 45 in the United States are estimated to be suffering from chronic loneliness, according to AARP’s Loneliness Study.
In fact, the UK has appointed a Minister Of Loneliness to deal with the country’s response to this sweeping malaise. Our embrace of individualism and feigned stoicism coupled with the overwhelming reliance on technology to occupy our down time are two of the primary reasons for the spread of this epidemic.
Persona Non Grata
In social gatherings, the hidden agenda is always business. The amount of time people spend with a person is proportional to that person’s wealth or power. We worship a rising sun, swelling net worth and all the things that that money can buy. A person without visible signals of prosperity or beauty, then, becomes persona non grata. This is the biggest symptom of a soulless decline into abject materialism. People, at times, dont even hesitate talking about the stock market at a funeral.
All the people you ignored at social gatherings will ignore you when you get old and possibly infirm. This is not a sadistic scenario. It’s just Karma. Let’s just say everyone is different but we must make an effort to create a collage.
The human ego can be the fountainhead of all human progress but it can also be the very bane of our existence. It may be possible to be competitive and collaborative at the same time. Collaboration may require subsuming our egos even if for a short while.
Theory of Relativity
John Maynard Keynes “in the long run, we are all dead”. If you extend this to individual legacies, it means “give enough time and everyone will be forgotten”. Yet, why is it that doing ‘something’ big becomes bigger than the pursuit of happiness?
If you are Einstein, Gandhi or the like, your legacy will live on for centuries. However, what about 10,000 years from now? Think about it. Stretching the time horizon further and further away gives you a whole new perspective. Therefore, the biggest pleasure is being present in every second of our waking lives and living the moment. Carpe Diem, as they say, one day at a time.
Many people start by dreaming about something big. Then, they realize mid-way that they should probably take one day as it comes and keep plugging away. Sometimes, the monotony results in a stable life. Other times, people find out what they are truly passionate about and the universe conspires to help them achieve their dreams.
In either case, there is something to be said about serendipity and the stars aligning. I am not recommending fatalism. All I am saying is that not everyone is born to leave a mark in the history book but everyone does have a purpose. Our desires can be endless. One such desire could be to be better than other humans. Perhaps, that’s how we are wired. We are not content with inequality. However, what if we think we are ahead in some respects, behind in some and leave it at that.
The Ultimate Currency
Love is the ultimate currency. Perhaps, it sounds sappy to most readers but that’s the truth. People are willing to forego extra money in favor of better recognition and respect. A sense of belonging is worth more than a few dollars more in the bank. As Brandon Stanton says: “talk to a thousand strangers until there is nothing strange about them”, we all need to step out of our comfort zone and go out in the world to seek relationships that last. Our legacy will be forgotten over a long enough period.