What do we want to want?

What do I want right now? To sleep, to be at home or in a cozy forest hut with a crackle sound of fireplace and a smell of chocolaty cacao, to be reading something that engages my mind and stimulates my imagination, to be writing driven by my inspiration, to have my friends, family, cat and dog with me, to go on an adventure and to explore the world. Of course, this list goes on and on and on and varies depending on how I feel and what phase of life I am going through, how I perceive and many other factors…

But what happens when I pose the question differently – what is it that I want to want? This is something more general and, also, more profound. It is not about my immediate wishes or even my long-term dreams that are all influenced by who I am now and what has happened to me so far. This question invites me to venture to the outskirts of my imagination and far beyond my everyday life. It asks me to contemplate the issue of values, desires and goals as such. Not just what these might be but also why they should be one way or another, what are the underlying narratives that move me along with everyone else who shares similar values, desires and goals, like an all-influencing deep-ocean current that nobody sees as long as they are carried by it. That is the tricky part. To see this current I must somehow step out of it, not be involved in it. If I manage to do that, however, I will no longer be able to step back in nor to feel myself being carried by it in the same way as everyone else who still has not been “outside”. This can be frightening because it implies a certain end of “how it was”. It is also fascinating because it promises to broaden my horizons. Indeed, such stepping out is the only way to notice any other currents that might flow around.      

Image from Pixaboy by Arek Socha

All of this leads me to the following thought – how can I hope to imagine the future (and what I might want to want), which may realistically be driven by a totally different current than is known to me? Especially if I even struggle to notice and step out of the current that influences me today? It becomes clear therefore that I see the future (and experience my wants) in the colours, temperatures and smells of my familiar current. For instance, if my current drives me along the lines of placing great value on the technological progress, then my fantasies about the future of humanity might involve flying cars and virtual reality providing new breathtaking opportunities. If however, my current brings me in the direction of appreciating the emotional significance of family bonds, then I might be indifferent to the flying cars but find virtual reality shockingly alienating. Instead, my fantasy about the perfect future might lean toward organizing everyday life in closely-knit, self-sustained communities. Thus, our currents are so fundamental to us and so much bigger than anyone of us individually that they shape us without our noticing it.

Yet, these currents are also shaped by us. We should not forget that any “system” created by humans or where humans are heavily engaged responds to our expectations by changing as a consequence of our efforts to predict its course. A classical example is the stock market. If enough people predict (and believe!) that tomorrow the price of X stock will increase for whatever reason, then enough people will buy it today and it will indeed increase, probably already today. If, however, we all predict and believe that tomorrow a great flood will overcome the Earth, well – we will see tomorrow. The weather does not change as a direct consequence of our forecasts, the values on the stock market do. However, since our forecasts influence the values on the stock market and they, in turn, influence the global economy that has a direct impact on how we live our lives on Earth, which, naturally, is leaving a footprint on this planet`s climate dynamics, we can see that even the weather is no longer completely immune to the whims of human predictions.

Considering how interconnected and truly global our human world has become and how far we have come in our ability to shape and influence our environment, I think it becomes alarmingly clear how important it is what we measure, what we predict, what we believe in and so – what it is that we want to want. Those seemingly little and innocent drops in the form of immediate individual wishes and values accumulate, turn into rivers of collective desires that rush ever-faster to meet in the deep-ocean currents that tend to outgrow the power of their creators and shape both our present and, indeed, our future. It is therefore of utmost importance, I think, that from time to time we give it a good and intensive thought – what do I want to want today, tomorrow and in ten years? In a way, answering this question means also thinking about what do I want to be like. Not just from an immediate or previous experience perspective, but also from potential future point of view. These are the drops that will form the next currents.     

keep exploring! 

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