Suppose the American President actually voted for his opponent? I think it’s possible – as he rolls around in his own reality and self-pity, he might also be tired of the job and just before voting, he was thinking,
“After all I’ve done for the American people, I get no love. Nobody has no love for me!” They make fun of how I dance, how I talk, my skin tone, my hair. No respect. No loyalty. COVID didn’t dominate my life. Why are they letting it dominate theirs? Even women don’t love me. Would you love me please! Is it possible women don’t enjoy being grabbed by the pussy? Pshaw! Not possible! I’m the best President in American history. In the world in fact. Yet, everyone is so hard on me. I want softballs. They write all this fake news, awful news, yes awful, terrible fake news, about me. I’ve done nothing wrong. All I do is right …
… If people pay to be a member of one of my clubs and expect a favour in return because I am President, what’s wrong with that? I hate the New York Times. Fake news! Fake news! My taxes are nobodies business – So what if I don’t pay? They can’t blame me. I’m just taking advantage of the laws they put in place. Hypocrites! I’m surrounded by hypocrisy and fake news, and disloyalty. Fake news, disloyalty and hypocrisy – I can only trust my children. Long live nepotism! Long live white supremacy! The oval office isn’t even oval, it’s shaped more like an egg. Is an egg oval? Nobody has no love for me! I want to go back to the womb – I do, back to the womb. There must be a way … Just like Lysol injections and drinking ultraviolet rays can get rid of COVID, I should be able to go back to the womb, any womb. I wonder if Stormy will take me?”
Then he casts his ballot for Biden and walks out thinking, 🎶I ain’t got nobody. Nobody cares for me, nobody cares for me. I’m so sad and lonely. Sad and lonely. Sad and lonely … nobody. 🎶(this is the David Lee Roth version. There’s also a Louis Prima version – The original composition was by Spencer Williams, and someone else did the lyrics.)
Lecture 9 – The problem of Expectation and Desire
Desires and expectations reveal a subtle aspect of the dark side of human nature. We have a favourable view of desire. For example, desiring to brush your teeth keeps them healthy. Or the desire to be promoted or expectations of ourselves and others – the problem is when desires and expectations become overpowering. Overpowering desires are like cravings from the last lecture.
Imagine what it would be like to go through life without expectations – hmmm, I wonder if that’s what André is doing – he is closer to liberation than I am. If we didn’t want anything in particular, would we be happier?
According to Krishna’s character in the Hindu text Bhagavad Gita, which is part of the Indian epic Mahabharata, desire establishes expectations. Expectations are beliefs, but they are fueled by desire. Hope and fear are emotions, but they are grounded in what we want.
Krishna, an incarnation of Vishnu, provides advice to the warrior Arjuna, who is torn between two paths because he is in a battle where his friends and family are on the opposing side. Arjuna thinks he either has to attack them and fail in his familial duties, but he will fail as a warrior if he doesn’t attack.
According to Krishna, Arjuna has various paths to liberation:
- He can seek insight into reality by following the disciplined path of knowledge.
- He can devote himself to God by following the disciplined path of devotion or
- He can abandon desire by following the disciplined way of action.
The first two paths are essential to Hindu tradition, but the lecture only covers the third path. On this path, Krishna advises Arjuna, “always perform with detachment any action you must do.”
Abandon our desires and expectations by acting in the world without being a part of the world. We lose who we imagine ourselves to be and merge into the true self: the atman. The atman is who we really are, deep down – it is our actual self that lies behind the appearances. This notion is central to the Gita. By abandoning desire and expectation, we can let go of who we usually take ourselves to be, lose our sense of self, and merge into something more fundamental.
By following a disciplined path of action, we merge with who we really are through a thoroughgoing absorption in activity. We detach ourselves from our typical concerns, losing hope for success and abandoning any worries about the future. This doesn’t mean we do nothing but there is no desire behind the things we do (nishkamakarma in Sanskrit). This is where non-attachment or detachment comes into play again.
- Detachment or detached action
- Removing desire altogether (I think this is problematic in some respects because desire is what motivates us to act – but for the lecture, they are not saying to give up desire but attachment to objects of desire)
The Necessity of Desire – is it possible to act voluntarily without desire? According to Michael Smith, there is a difference between beliefs and desires:
- Beliefs are states that aim to fit the world – Beliefs are about how things are – If you are presented with evidence that a belief is not valid, you should stop believing it (hopefully – I hope)
- Desires are states that aim to have the world fit them – Desires are about how we’d like the world to be.
What would it look like to act without desire in a manner where we are detached from expectations or any hopes/fears related to outcomes?
Flow Experiences – This is the same as “being in the zone.” According to psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, in flow experiences, we lose track of ourselves in skilled activity that is intrinsically rewarding and motivating. This is the state where we also find deep satisfaction. A flow experience is detached engagement. This is the kind of psychological state Krishna wants Arjuna to be in.
Is it possible to live your life in flow? Csikszentmihalyi identifies a particular personality type, the autotelic personality, which does experience extended periods of flow. These are people who have a self-goal. These people are self-sufficient because they have their own motivating ends; they aren’t looking outside themselves all the time for satisfaction. (OMG, that’s me 🙂 )
In terms of the Bhagavad Gita, this means that Arjuna can act as he must performing his duty (follow his dharma) and entering into the great battle, while at the same time losing his sense of self in a way that makes his actions selfless and in a way that eliminates any concern he might have for a particular outcome.
Suppose desire and expectation are a subtle aspect of the dark side of human nature. In that case, it might be possible for us to live without them, immersed in the flowing current of our own lives.
(Source: The Great Courses – Understanding the Dark Side of Human Nature)
Are you fully absorbed in the flowing current of your life?
Feature Photo Credit: @alesha_macarosha via Twenty20