It depends on the time-scale we’re looking at.
In the short term, I want to keep writing this.
In the little-bit-longer term, I want various specific things.
In my lifetime, I want the usual generalities. I want to experience as much joy as possible, and for the pain to at least be as aesthetically pleasing as possible, and for there to be the minimum possible amount of indignity. (There’s a forthcoming essay on the topic of love that will get into the “how” of all this. The rest I’ll work out as I go along.)
There is a tricky balance between quality and quantity (or, again, short- and long-term). I should very much like to live the best life possible which is able to sustain itself for as long as possible. The only thing I have to say about the balance is another platitude: in general, quality over quantity… but let’s not go overboard and just nuke the quantity, please.
In the longer term, it seems to me that what I want is for the future to accord as much as possible with my values and preferences. What that basically boils down to is that I want the things that happen after me to be similar to me, but more. What I want is to give rise to consciousness richer, more joyous, and more capable of appreciating beauty than my own, until the last possible moment that physics will permit it to exist. And I want things to go well for this consciousness: for it to have lots of joy, interesting pain, and minimal indignity. This appears to be the motivation behind all my actions that cannot be explained by the previous point.
If we extend this logic as far as my current picture of the world will allow, I basically want the line of succession to keep on going as long and gloriously as possible. For the “torch” to be passed on and the “fire” to bloom, from the Big Bang to the genesis of life on Earth to the meeting on Mount Sinai, through me, down in an unbroken line of “causality” (for want of a better word), until the last possible moment — until the waning of the observable universe itself means that any more growth and expansion is impossible, no matter how wily my successor(s).
And when that last mind stands at the final moment before the inevitable decline, at the “highest peak” of existence-as-I-understand it, I would like it to be aware of me and my role in its development. I want it to acknowledge me, and to feel positively disposed towards me.
In more emotive language, I want it to go something like:
Oh my God.
Oh. By the way. Now that I’m here… quick footnote.
David Solomon Leon. Thank you. I love you. You did good.
OK. Where was I? Oh, right.
That is my best guess at what exactly it is I want out of this world, as of right now.
These desires become increasingly silly as you push them farther away from the present moment. For many reasons. Some of which I’ll go into now.
- What’s with all this vague and approximate talk?
“I want to keep writing this” = pretty clear.
But “joy, quality, approval, dignity”? The heck is any of that, and where can I stick it?
At the end of the day, I have to admit I don’t really know what I’m talking about here with any of these things. Especially when it comes to “levels”. “Most possible joy”, “least possible suffering”… What weird, half-baked abstractions are these? When I lay it out straight, it just reveals my fundamental confusion more than anything else. (But whatever — it’s the best I can do with the means at my disposal.)
- All this is based on a picture of linear time, with a beginning and end and a neat, predictable progression from first to last.
Which is a pretty wild guess. I gotta admit I’m not very confident about it.
And if that one’s off the mark, then really, my long-term desires are very amusingly pointless.
- But even assuming all this vague talk makes sense and these wild assumptions actually work out… why would I suppose these monkey notions of gratitude and love and approval bear any resemblance to what future minds would be experiencing? So, I guess I really just want the people I run into in my life to express more gratitude and love and approval.
- But more to the point: what difference does it make to me what other things think of me?
So, I guess what I really want is self-esteem.
- And really, what’s so impressive about these future minds?
They’re just following their nature, the same as any other conditioned being, including me.
So, really what I want is God.
I want something out of this world, after all.
But, you know. There is a range of desires in me, from small to large, from reasonable to batshit crazy. And I just wanted to take a moment to get things clear and sorted out, and thus give each fragment of the spectrum of my desires a fair hearing.
This way, when I proceed, I’ll subconsciously proceed on a slightly more straightforward course.
All these desires are really an awful lot of work, mind you. Quite a lot of the time, I’m just too lazy for any of them.
Whenever you actually manage to properly give up on having all these preferences and then having to actually act on them (for example: keeping yourself alive, or keeping yourself happy, or committing suicide), there is shockingly little suffering. Shockingly little.
(……..though I guess, on further reflection, it’s not that shocking.)
But then, you know how it goes.
You give up for a bit, and everything’s chill for a while… and before you know it, the desires creep stealthily back in.
Come on, David. Let’s have another spin on the merry-go-round. It won’t be that bad. We’ve learned from last time. It’ll go smoother now. Really it will.
Whatcha gonna do with all this energy, anyway? Let it build up and it’ll probably become agitation. Let that build up and it’ll probably become depression. Besides — plenty of time to not do stuff later, right?
And each time, you’re like:
…oh fiiiiine. You make some good points. Go on then… let’s give it another whirl.