What Do You Want?

Carl Jung tells in one of his books of a conversation he had with a Native American chief who pointed out to him that in his perception most white people have “tense faces, staring eyes, and a cruel demeanor.” He said, “They are always seeking something. What are they seeking? The whites always want something. They are always uneasy and restless. We don’t know what they want. We think they are all mad.”

I suspect if that chief came upon many of us this past year he’d have seen that look of madness. I know I’ve had my belly filled with restlessness, unease and, dare I say, anger.

Perhaps the chief was right in asking, “What is it that we want?”

And yet, is there a more difficult question to answer?

When I peer into my “want” bucket I come up with a thousand and one do-overs I’d like to have. How great it would be to have one more hour with my departed brothers, or one more visit with my dad. All things I can’t have, but, oh, so want.

I find myself, like so many, on the horns of a dilemma, wanting stuff I can’t have. No wonder the chief saw the look of madness.

The eternal question: what to do? The writer Robert Louis Stevenson had a suggestion. Visit a cemetery.

Before you laugh, just think about it. A cemetery is a place where:

  • no one strives,
  • no one struggles,
  • no one is unhappy.

No one lacks for anything. No one wants anything. There’s no pride, jealousy, or criticism. All scores have been settled once and for all. There’s just perfect peace.

A cemetery is a place of empty “want” buckets.

What better place for an attitude adjustment?

When we lived in Chicago I sometimes took a shortcut home through an enormous cemetery. On the gate was inscribed “A place of perfect peace.” Often I’d get halfway through, stop, get out of my car, and just take in the silence and stillness. It never failed to quiet my spirit.

So when we came upon the 30th anniversary of my mother’s passing last month, I suggested to Marsha we break away from our pandemic-ridden cocoon and visit Holyrood Cemetery to pay our respects.

The truth is I knew my “want” bucket needed emptying.

When we arrived Marsha was the first to locate my parents’ gravestone.

I glanced down at their names, the two people who caused me to be born. It took my breath away. I dropped to my knees, brushed the leaves away and just said, “Thank you.”

I am because they were. What more could I want? I’m alive.

I had an answer to my question. What I want most is something I already have: LIFE.

It seems I’ve fought all my life to have more than what I’ve been given. I’ve been seduced by the world to pursue things I don’t need and want for things I can’t have. I once was a believer that I could have it all.

The cemetery is where there’s nothing more to want, where all yearning stops and all circles are closed, where there’s nothing more to be written.

When we drove away from Holyrood I was imbued once again with an understanding that brought me peace.

Just a thought…


Copyright © 2021 Patrick J. Moriarty. All Rights Reserved.

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