Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Paradox of Dissatisfaction

As I discussed in the January 3rd blog, dissatisfaction is a part of being human. If you have taken human birth, you will eventually experience that nothing is capable of permanently satisfying us. Yet it is preceisely because of our almost constant state of dissatisfaction that we seek spiritual comfort.

One Monday morning several years ago, as I was getting ready to take my son, Zach, to school, I began to feel a familiar nagging sense of doom that used to often accompany Monday mornings. Perhaps it was the anxiety of my mind telling me that "I have to make something of this week," that somehow I had to pay the rent, my bills, put a deposit down on Zach's summer theatre camp, pay for his driver's education classes, and all the other stuff that life brings to us in a typical week. Being single and self-employed back then, this was sometimes no easy task.

I shared my anxiety with Zach, and without saying a word he reached into his back pocket, retreived his wallet, and pulled out a tightly folded piece of paper. Carefully, he unfolded it (the paper was so well-worn that it had the texture of cloth) and read to me the words of Martha Graham: 
There is no satisfaction at any time. there is only a queer, divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive.
It was, of course, the perfect thing for me to hear at that moment. He then shared with me how that quote had given him courage and hope when things were not going well for him in school, or in the pursuit of his craft as a young actor. We began to discuss the paradox of how dissatisfaction is necessary to allow us to open to the numinous - the ineffable, sacred quality of life.

Try to imagine a world without dissatisfaction, where every desire, every craving is completely and permanently satisfied. To me, it looks like a world without evolution and growth.

A fragment from The Indian Parrot by Rumi:
A drowning man reaches for anything!
The Friend loves this flailing about
better than any lying still.

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