Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Of Wants and Want-nots

It's strange how different people value and desire different things. Perhaps it is due to one's upbringing, or his environment, or just a fascination for something in particular. But everyone seems to want something more than anything else, be it a basic need or an irrational aspiration. Considering Maslow's ideas, it's just human nature at work.

I have a friend who likes robot toys, for example. He's probably the most frugal person that I know, and yet he has this overriding desire to collect them. I once asked him how much he figures he has spent on his collection, and he wouldn't tell me for fear of being ridiculed against his normally frugal nature. Another friend spent a small fortune on 3 Optimus Prime action figures for the reason that it was something that was deprived of him in his childhood. At the time he bought them, he was also "deprived" of a steady job but that somehow didn't matter then.

There's another person I know who puts her passion for solo travel above all things. She has already quit 2 jobs and a partner because they were getting in the way of her usually exhasting itinerary. I'm pretty sure everyone likes to see new places and experience new things, but how much of ourselves are we willing to devote to it?


The other night, I was out with my girlfriend and a friend of ours and we got around to talking about having such wants. You see, my girlfriend has been complaining that I'm the most frustrating person to buy a gift for because I never really let her on to what I want to get. She'd try to ask around and slyly ask me what I want to get for myself but usually doesn't get anywhere. When I figure out what she's up to, I'd give hints that I want some random object just so she'd stop snooping around. And when the time comes when she gives it to me I'd have a less than elated reaction (because I can't act for the life of me) and she'd be naturally pissed.


For the longest time, I always thought that not wanting stuff was a virtue. I considered it to be a sign of humility and meekness and all those other beatitudes that were sure ways to get yourself that golden ladder to heaven. Of course, my parents agreed with that attitude, as you may imagine. They even reinforced it by not getting me the stuff that most kids at my school were enjoying like shiny new Air Jordans, gas-powered remote controlled scale model cars, SEGA and the likes. While the other kids were subjecting their many GI Joe action figures to all sorts of torture, I was protecting my one and only action figure from any and all damages as I knew if this one "died", it was enough reason for my parents to never buy me another one (which is one of the most cruel instances of a Catch 22 for any kid).

When I grew up and experienced the really real world, it became quite a convenience not to be so invested into wanting stuff. Sure I may have missed out on a lot of things, but it allowed me to be a tad bit less miserable with my life, being oblivious to what all the cool kids were doing/playing with/wearing/experiencing in those days. It also gave me enough slack to afford a lifestyle that was slightly more comfortable than the other people who were in the same pay range as I was. In a way, it was a good enough trade-off for me, foregoing the immense thrill of getting something I want in exchange for not being miserable most of the time with my broke-ass existence. (Does that make sense?)


Now I am unsure if I really am getting the better end of the deal here. On one hand, I limit my exposure to depression and feelings of inadequacy, but will all the joy and exhiliration that I'm missing out now come back to haunt me later on in life? You know, having to ask yourself that question on whether you really lived a full life?

There's this line from the movie Serendipity, where Jeremy Piven quotes from the ancient Greeks that when you die, the one question that is asked is "Did he have passion?". It may be in a different context, as I can't equate buying and having tons of fun with an iPad to being passionate, but do I?