Sunday, June 10, 2012

What Do You Want?

Knowing that "not-having" is a question of wanting versus a question of capacity (if you don't know this, please read Of Course You Can), the next question is: What do you want?

Believe it or not, for many people this may be the most difficult question to answer. I experimented last night last night during breaks playing with the Velvet Frog Band at the Taconic Wayside Inn in Copake Falls, NY.

A guy walks up and tells me, "Man, I've always wanted to play saxophone like you do. I really wish I could do that."

I respond, "Actually, no, you don't."

He says, "I really do."

I say, "If you really did, then you would."

He begins to say something that I assume is going to be a defensive statement encompassing reasons why he can't, but then stops. Instead he asks, "What do mean?"

I explain that anyone who really wants to can play saxophone like I do. It's just a question of priorities and perhaps finding someone to show you the path.

He says, "OK, I get it. But if I don't want to play saxophone, what do I want?"

I say, "Good question. What do you want?"

Again he takes a breath as if to speak and stops. He does it again. He does it again. Finally he says,
"Wow, no one's ever asked me that, at least not in the way you did. I have no idea what I really want."

And so it went. Person after person after person. Not one could answer the question, "What do you want?"

So, what did I do? I asked more questions and I discovered patterns in why people couldn't answer: What do you want?

For example, many people after speaking fondly or even passionately about something would say, "But I really wouldn't want that."

To me it sure sounded as though they did, so I asked more questions and began making assertions. Some of the reasons that emerged were:

  1. What I really want would be bad for me or others.
  2. I don't deserve what I really want.
  3. I've made my bed so I have to lie in it.
  4. I just don't know how to get from here to there.
  5. Even if I got what I wanted, it would never last.
I'm sure that there are others; however, these were the high-fliers last night. 

Regardless of the reason, the basic mechanics of not knowing involved several steps:
  1. Deny yourself permission to want what you want. 
  2. Since you're not allowed to want what you want, you never look deeply into it or explore it.
  3. Without open investigation of the want, you never know if you really want it.
  4. You also never know if you don't.
  5. Without closure, the want is left open like an untreated sore, never getting better and never getting worse.
What do you want?

Happy Sunday,

P.S. I would note that for many, the question "Why do you want that?" was next to impossible to answer as they invariably took it as an accusation, not a facilitation of understanding.

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