Sometimes in life, I am inexplicably drawn to things. I just want them, and I don’t know why. I realized this when I watched a video review of the latest Subaru BRZ (Same as the Toyota 86 and the erstwhile Scion FR-S). I’ve gone into some detail about why I like cars and what they mean to me, but I wanted to talk about the concept of wanting something, in general.
“An artifact of an impressionable childhood mind”
When I was a child, I wanted a lot of things. A lot of different bits and baubles, a lot of shiny toys. My parents were nice enough to get me a lot of these toys, but I always
wanted the newest thing that caught my fancy. Now that I’m a little more grown up I realize it was because the advertisers were doing a great job at making their product look desirable to a young impressionable mind (perhaps that’s a little manipulative, but I digress).
I wanted a whole host of things as a child. Action figures, Hotwheels tracks, video games, and gaming consoles… the list goes on. I wanted it all; but I couldn’t have it all, of course— my parents didn’t want to spoil their child. I couldn’t have whatever I wanted, and the want was so intense— as childhood brains tend to work, it made me want those things even more. A huge part of my childhood was me wanting the latest Batman figure.
“It’s easier to brush these feelings away as a responsible adult”
I rarely feel that intense want of something anymore. Perhaps it is because I grew up and toys aimed at children don’t appeal to me anymore other than the occasional sentimental value. I do have a Batman figure at my desk at work, but I don’t feel intensely about it. Perhaps it was too easy to procure. Or, perhaps I’m not a 10-year old who wants to build a huge action figure collection anymore.
As I grew up, those feelings of temptation or intense wants grew fewer and farther in between. These days I only “kind of” want some things, and I mostly only think about the things I need. The last time I remember wanting something intensely was when Android smartphones were relatively new, and all I ever wanted was to be a gadget reviewer so I could have the latest phones without having to pay for them— the coveted “review samples”. But, that was when I was a kid in college— now I have a job. A combination of financial independence and Android-powered gadgets losing their novelty washed that “want” away.
“What we do here is go back”
The waning intensity of my wants is why I was so surprised when all of a sudden, I was in the throes of temptation once more, as I first saw a video featuring an orange Toyota 86. A rather beautiful looking car, close to some of those old Hotwheels cars I used to gawk at on store shelves. “Not the fastest car, but a fun car to drive,” the reviewer said. I kept looking at the car, and as I saw its badges and trim pieces, its sparse interior, and its little digital speed readout I couldn’t help but feel a mix of positive emotions wash over me. I didn’t know why, but I wanted it. I just wanted it.
So I watched this one video. Then another video. Then the next—and I kept watching others talk about this vehicle, its lack of power, its affordability, its fan base and before I knew it I was window-shopping online, looking at listings, imagining myself behind the wheel. I reveled in this sensation like I’d met an old friend. But then I stopped myself.
“A responsible adult”
As I have gone over in a previous post, buying a car doesn’t make much practical sense. I am getting by just fine without one. I’m a grown up now, and adulthood is all about being responsible. About staying the course. About making a long-term goal and sticking with it till it comes to fruition. A moment of whimsy is nice to have once in a while but in the end, I have to put the blinders back on and focus on what’s important. What I truly need. I can’t just give in to temptation and live to regret it— I need to think about grown-up things now, like savings, and investments, and Demat accounts and credit scores and interest rates and rates of return, I need to make sure I have a plan for “wealth creation” and let the gods of compound interest help push me through life comfortably like a middle-aged man on a pool float, sipping a pina colada and soaking in some sun on a lazy river ride.
A car is to be bought only when I absolutely need one, and all it can be is a utensil, a utility, something that takes me from point A to point B, has a good resale value, great gas mileage, and the best reliability. I have to sit down with the child inside me and have a talk about the really important things in life. I have to tell myself that the joy of having overcome temptation is greater than giving into it.
But why don’t I believe it?
Good article, Dushyant ! Well articulated, and dispassionately analysed thoughts.
All great thinkers, from Bhagwan Buddha to Mahatma Gandhi, advocate the containment of “Desires”. But mere mortals like us can’t succeed in fighting desires.
I think that the trick is, one, being conscious of the desires, and two, maintaining a balance. This helps in not feeling guilty about your desires, nor feeling sad about suppressing them.
Cheers! Keep writing !😊
Good one Dushyant. Kaka, I was also going to point out that ‘balance’ (in every aspect of life) is the key to most of the challenges we face. As per Buddhist philosophy, ‘desire’ (to want more of the good or less of the bad) is the root cause of unhappiness and we need to experience life as it is. Easier said that done!
What I struggle to understand is if we decide not to ‘desire’, how will there be growth and progress as I believe that needs us to be dissatisfied with the status quo. I believe that growth is happiness (or satisfaction) and our goal should not be just to avoid unhappiness but to be truly happy (or satisfied).
This is a classic argument people give to counter the philosophy of ” कर्मण्ये वाधिकारस्ते मा फलेशु कदाचन ”
Yes, it’s true that one has to have a “desire to do better.” But the “Desire” starts where, and ends where is not at all easy to define. For one, it’s subjective. And also, it’s very topical. So where does one draw a line?
I for myself would define it as follows…
I will improve. I will achieve. I will try to excel trying to do it. I will take pride in my achievement. However, if my so called “Achievement goal” tends to be disagreeable or harmful to anyone, I will seriously reconsider my goal/aim. At the same time, if my target requires me to adopt unfair means, i will not insist on pursuing the same.
One has to develop his/her own philosophy about progress, growth, and development. But at the end, it’s got to be “Human.”
I think there is a subtle difference between containing desire and suppressing it. It’s like the difference between being responsible and being ascetic. Like the difference between having things and being had by things.
If you’re chasing happiness in material possessions and spending impulsively or without consideration of your long-term goals and values, that’s one thing. But it is another to enjoy the fruits of your labor and give yourself things for which you can be grateful. It’s the gratitude that brings happiness, not the possession. Everything affords enjoyment, but you must still do the enjoying.
“I have to tell myself that the joy of having overcome temptation is greater than giving into it.”
You don’t believe it because it’s not in your experience. But there is no need to believe it (nor disbelieve it). Just find out for yourself whether or not it’s true by putting it to the test. Maybe it’s more nuanced than what you’re trying to believe. Maybe “temptation” is not the same thing as “desire.” Some desires have a beneficial purpose that is not always immediately apparent.
I agree about it not being a part of my expeirence: you live and you learn, I guess.
If you have fallen in love with a car, go for it! If not a new one, consider good used one! If it doesn’t workout, you can always get rid of it (it’s just a car)!
But do be very careful about the other kind of love!! It comes with a lot of heartache, even while the going is great! & Just forget about what happens when it’s not! 😢
That’s the love for which you want to save all your best judgement, patience, thoughts & energies. Fall into this one and you are usually stuck for life! Buyers regrets here are truly heart rending.
So take my advice! Give in, to this BRZ one! It’s a great car. Confession: I have been eyeing it myself, since we got our Forester. It’s the love that defines a man & it’s about time (just kidding) !!
I agree that I may be overstating how difficult it is to procure and get rid of a car, perhaps it’s just that I have never dealt with that before. I guess it’s just about gaining that experience and finding the balance between wants and needs, but then again that’s what adulthood is all about.