Thursday, December 30, 2010

Just what does that mean, "want what you have?"

Want What You Have

I meant to get this posted before Christmas. It seemed timely, given that Christians all over the world were about to participate in one of the great holiday traditions of tearing into piles of brightly colored packages filled with things. But the four good ideas are bound to no one ideology, so timing of the message isn't really the point. Let's get back to Christmas. I won't say all the things unwrapped are useless. Some of them are likely to be much needed. Many of them are things wanted. It seems a fair few of them turned out to be some sort of technical gadget that will reduce one's ability to be where they are. And of course a certain percentage are unwanted, unnecessary, or duplicated.

Here's the question: Now that you have it, do you still want it? Or are you already counting the things you did not get?

I know a man who has much and counts none of it towards his list of blessings. He lives in a well-built 3-bedroom, 2-bath ranch-style house with a kitchen, dining room, living room, concrete back patio with cover, privacy fencing around the back yard. It is beautifully landscaped, in a neighborhood where most of the folks are hard working, blue-collar middle class. He calls his home a dump and his neighbors trash. He has family members who love him, and while he lives alone, and is very lonely, he is not unloved. He calls himself the Black Sheep. He believes his isolation is God's punishment, though he has committed no sin. He has excellent health, and looks years younger than his actual age. He tells his reflection he is fat, wrinkled, old, useless. He lives off a nice pension as well as social security and savings. Cash flow is tight, but the bills get paid. There is money for travel and for new clothes, furniture, wall-to-wall carpeting, etc.. He claims he is a pauper. It is not what he wants, you see, none of it. He tallies it daily, the things he feels he should but does not have in his life: a bigger house, more money, exotic travel, someone to travel with, fine clothing, more antiques, affluent neighbors, a vacation cottage... . He wants more because being comfortable is not enough.

I know another man who lives in a three-room basement apartment so small there isn't enough room to swing a cat. The furniture came with the apartment and shows its age. The one entrance opens onto a concrete step and slopes down a steep hillside of a yard. The bathroom is accessed by walking through the bedroom and the minuscule kitchen. He is perfectly content. As is his cat, when it's not being swung. If you ask the second man to rate his position in the world, he will tell you that he counts himself lucky and calls himself happy. Although he would like a soul mate too, he believes that God loves him.

When I first heard the phrase, want what you have, it struck me as truth. Pure blazingly simple truth, like, "Yeah! That's right! Why didn't I think of that?" If we all actually want the things we have, we would be richer people. How sad is it to spend one's life counting only what is missing, and not counting what is present? (Of course you must be where you are in order to count what you have...if you spend your time mentally tallying the contents of your older sister's house to convince yourself you don't have enough, you will never see what you yourself have acquired...but then the "Quest to Acquire" is a false path, and a topic for another blog.)

Want what you have and you will always have what you want.

Now before we move onto the next good idea, I want to clarify a position at this point. I have heard others argue that if you spend your time being where you are and wanting what you have, you are merely settling and lack ambition. Not true I say! Although I concede it does appear that way on the surface, and frankly, I have a lazy streak a mile wide. But I am a believer in goal setting and dreaming big. The phrase, "no risk, no reward," is oft heard leaving my lips. Robert Heinlein wrote, "to fully enjoy the flavor of life, take big bites. Moderation is for monks," and I have quoted him regularly, because this life is about the adventure of living, even living the bad times, because without that experience, one has less ability to fully appreciate the good times.  As with all truths, the key is balance — set goals but also appreciate the goals already set and accomplished, because that's how you get where you are, and that's how you gain what you have.

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