Important Things: Desiring bigger and better

By Jarrett Retz -July 26th, 2018

"When the people fear not what should be feared, then what is most to be feared descends upon them.

Beware of thinking your dwelling too narrow;

beware of resentment over your lot.

I resent not my lot, therefore I find no cause for resentment in it."

…Your home may be low, or it may be lofty; in either, you can find content. Beware of thinking your house too small and narrow, as though it could not contain you. Your means may be abundant or restricted. In either case they will meet your needs. Beware of thinking them less than your deserts. Common people do not understand their destiny; and therefore they resent their lot. The Saint alone knows himself and his state, and gladly accepts the lot of which Heaven sends him; he boasts not nor seeks outward things, and therefore he has enough. Common people are dissatisfied with their dwellings and think them narrow. But the Saint loves his home, and is everywhere content. He is not great in his own eyes, and seeks not the shine in the eyes of others. ..

Tao te Ching, Translation & Commentary by Charles Johnson

This is a longer passage from the Tao te Ching book I have, and it includes some of the commentary as well. I have used notes from this book recently because they seem to stick with me. This particular passage appeared in my mind multiple times over the last month.

It has strong relations to the quote, "If you are not satisfied with what you have, you will not be satisfied with you get." I have my own objections to this quote, depending on the circumstance, but it certainly has its place.

When I want something bigger, better, or newer I find that it can be helpful to ask myself 'why?". What about this new thing will be great for me, and continue to be beneficial for me? Is my 'wanting' a good wanting or do I feel ambivalent about it.

Whenever I have come across more money than I need, I seem to desire things that I wouldn't desire if I had less. Usually, I wouldn't feel that much different between having something and not having something. This is apparent when it comes to clothes, or shoes.

There is real wisdom in the quote above. The hedonic (or emotional) treadmill that can be explained by our brains adapting to new stimuli until it seems normal, comes into play when thinking our dwelling too narrow or small. When thinking your dwelling is too small, what happens when the size increases? You fill it with more stuff. Eventually, all that stuff fills the larger dwelling, and now that dwelling appears too small.

Something else that stimulated this quote in my mind was seeing the quotebelow in Tim Ferriss's 5-Bullet Friday e-mail letter;

Quote I’m pondering —
“I should be suspicious of what I want.”

YOU SHOULD BE SUSPICIOUS OF WHAT YOU WANT, because how well do you know yourself at the moment? Research will show that you are poor at predicting the reasons for your own behavior.

Anyway, I think that believing dwellings are too small or narrow is a worry that is wasted. For something related to this topic, if this interests you, and you are thinking about how it may affect your life, I would recommend that you watch the documentary called Minimalism.

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