The Disease of More: Grace or Scorched-Earth Policy?

“If I can just get a boyfriend/girlfriend, everything would be better.”

“If I could get in shape, I’d feel much better about myself.”

“If I can get into school X, it’ll mean I’m set!”

“If I just had his/her life, I could face tomorrow!”

“Today stunk, but there’s always tomorrow!”

“If I can get that dream job, I’d be satisfied.”, etc, etc.

And yet, more often that not, we find that none of these things brings the full satisfaction that we expected. You might find a significant other, but it’s not long before you start thinking he/she is not what you signed up for after you observe their flaws. You might get in shape, but you either (A) put some weight back on or (B) feel like you could still lose more weight. You might get into that awesome college or grad school, but that experience and prestige lasts for a few years, and beyond that, it’s only relevant every-now-and-then at best. Finally, after busting your tail and getting that “dream” job, you start losing interest. In all these things, you feel a certain itch, intuition and/or restlessness to find something more.

Inspired by a concept popularized by Bill Simmons, albeit in a completely different context, I believe this itch/intuition/restlessness/whateveryouwanttocallit can be aptly called “the disease of more”. Put more simply, it’s the disease of yearning for the grass that’s seemingly greener on the other side. Some of us fill our void through serial dating while others fill the void through seeking prestige and achieving success. How we do it might differ from person to person, but it’s undeniable that we all engage in this destructive mentality. Indeed, if we are honest with ourselves, I think we’d acknowledge just how damaging this is to our lives – I’ll be the first one to testify to that fact. This mentality holds us captive because, when engaging in it, we will constantly find ourselves dissatisfied with the present and assume the future (without any changes made from our end) will change things. Stuck in this pattern, we end up hurting ourselves and missing out on life.

The thing is, some of us might be fine harming ourselves, frankly speaking. Nevertheless, if self-destruction isn’t enough to ward us from this behavior, then perhaps the prospect of putting others at risk will. We often put others at risk by either treating them as obstacles in our way or as playthings meant for our (abbreviated) pleasure. In any case, the end result is the same: we sap people of their humanity by idolizing or demonizing them. It could be idolizing that person you “have feelings for” or it could be demonizing friends and family by interpreting their constructive criticism as mistrust and envy. When plagued by the “disease of more”, we are all too willing to push aside rationality and compassion in the name of our next “fix”. The irony is, try as we might, the greener pastures will forever remain a distant, unattainable goal. You might get that job, boyfriend/girlfriend, or shed X number of pounds, but inevitably, these momentary “fixes” will be just that: momentary. You’ll tire of the current “fix” and eventually move onto “greener pastures” where this disease will claim more victims. This disease suffocates, crushes and overwhelms. In the end, we burn those around us and figuratively become walking, scorched-earth policies.

And yet, things don’t have to be this way. As one lady put it, it’s not having what you want, it’s wanting what you got! We are all seeking acceptance and comfort, but sometimes, we are just looking in all the wrong places. At a certain point, we should realize the problem may be US when we notice how tenaciously the feeling of restlessness sticks with us EVEN AFTER changing/replacing/destroying the people around us. It has been my observation that the “warm, insulated feeling of peace” has eluded those who demanded it. The truth is that, most of the time, the things we seek in life aren’t bad in and of themselves. In fact, most of these things are good and beautiful. But when we become fixated on them, we end up becoming like Lenny from “Of Mice and Men” and choke the life out of these good things while destroying ourselves in the process.

So what are we living for? Just as important, what do we leave in the wake of our presence? Do we graciously leave people better off for having known us? Or do we leave people burnt and hurt in the wake of our scorched-earth lifestyle that knows no bounds? Are our lives like a scrapbook, a collection of memories we can fondly reflect on, OR are our lives like a resume – a collection of achievements that are perpetually the means to the means to the means to whatever end we’re desperately (but hopelessly) trying to satisfy?

Now’s that awkward awesome moment when I abruptly conclude tastefully conclude my post by asking you, the reader, to consider the words of one C.S. Lewis on the voids that remain no matter how hard we try to fill them:

“The Christian says, ‘Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists. A baby feels hunger: well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim: well, there is such a thing as water. Men feel sexual desire: well, there is such a thing as sex. If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. If none of my earthly pleasures satisfy it, that does not prove that the universe is a fraud. Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing. If that is so, I must take care, on the one hand, never to despise, or be unthankful for, these earthly blessings, and on the other, never to mistake them for the something else of which they are only a kind of copy, or echo, or mirage. I must keep alive in myself the desire for my true country, which I shall not find until after death; I must never let it get snowed under or turned aside; I must make it the main object of life to press on to that other country and to help others do the same.'”

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One thought on “The Disease of More: Grace or Scorched-Earth Policy?

  1. Pingback: A Morning Peacock of Links (8/8) | hobojarpen

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