Not so long ago, I came to the conclusion that I am a deeply unsatisfied person. Almost at any given moment, I am thinking of how that moment could be better. How I could be doing something, being something, or experiencing something higher.
I usually consider it my own fault—that I am not organized enough to be the best self I can be. Or perhaps I am lazy and slothful. And St. Paul’s words echo in my mind: the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do [Romans 7:19]
I never get around to doing what I want to do, but all the shit I say I will stop doing—that’s what I end up being very faithful with.
For these and many other reasons, I figured out that I am just an unsatisfied person. This will not change, and I had better find a way of living with it.
I don’t mean that I don’t have things I enjoy. There are also the exciting and exceptional moments of action that absorb my total attention. Sometimes I get in the zone while writing; very very often when I am dancing I am utterly taken away, and sometimes a project can fill me and satisfy me well.
But those are rare and precious moments. For all the other moments, I am wishing for the higher thing—the greater, the more.
I was trying to explain this to Chris. The explanation went somewhat awry, since he is a sweet and wonderful man who wants me to be happy. For him, it is not a good thing for me to be unsatisfied. It is a problem, and must be fixed.
We are both interested in my happiness—he even more than I. But this new understanding I had about my nature seemed both under and over the stuff of “happiness.” Metaphysical realities are not so susceptible to temporal fixes.
But what was it I had really discovered? What did I mean by all this? Maybe it is really a personal problem, something that pills or prayer would fix.
Maybe it was all in my head.
But then I read this from John Stuart Mill:
It is indisputable that the being whose capacities of enjoyment are low, has the greatest chance of having them fully satisfied; and a highly endowed being will always feel that any happiness which he can look for, as the world is constituted, is imperfect.
But he can learn to bear its imperfections, if they are at all bearable; and they will not make him envy the being who is indeed unconscious of the imperfections, but only because he feels not at all the good which those imperfections qualify.
It is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied; better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied. And if the fool, or the pig, are a different opinion, it is because they only know their own side of the question. The other party to the comparison knows both sides.
Mill, no fool, got it! I discovered my dissatisfaction on my own, but I am not on my own in the feeling.
AND I am a “highly endowed being.” I’ll take that.
Of course, I am also required with my endowments, to bear all the imperfections I so keenly perceive. That brings my mind back to the Bible, this time the red letters of Jesus’s words:
For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more. [Luke 12:48]
I guess the Endower of my gifts would have a right to require me to do something with them.
And I would not have it any other way. I want to be and make the best of myself that I can.
I’ll just have to find a way to bear my imperfections.