2/26/11

You Can't Always Get What You Want

I'd like to talk for a moment about wanting something you can't have. Now, I'm not saying that it's impossible to go out and get it, just that it may be unethical to take what belongs to someone else. In today's commercialized world it's easy to think that if someone has something you want, you can go out and get your own freshly made model. Example: My friend has an iPhone. I want an iPhone. I will, therefore, save money to buy my own iPhone.

But I'm talking about this hypothetical friend having something unique. Something no one else could ever have. Something that this friend loves dearly, and that you would give anything to have for yourself. There are only two options open to you in this case: 1) break ethical boundaries and take what you want, or 2) learn to do without. There is, of course, an unspoken third option: that is, if the friend becomes tired of the item and discards it, you can come along and pick it up. But the chances of this happening are slim.

So now we get into admiring from afar... looking, but not touching. Your friend is a generous friend, so he lets you play around with this item, but it's not like you get to take it home or anything. Perhaps you visit this friend on a regular basis and every time the two of you play with this coveted, unique thing. Secretly maybe you hope that your friend will say "Ya know what? I'm done with this thing. Here, you have it." But this never happens.

What may happen on occasion is you being left alone with this item. It's not yours, but there it is... enticing you, almost begging for you to touch, pick up and carry home. You start playing with it, but out of the corner of your eye you see your friend... standing there... watching you dance and play with his unique, amazing, extra-special object of infinite wonder. He's fine with it for now. You smile at each other and nod. But you know if you did anything more you'd get the swiftest kick in the rear and out the door.

Somehow you begin to wonder if your friend is really taking good care of this thing. Is he keeping it protected, or just letting it lay around to fend for itself? Might other, less principled, men come along and take it due to your friends carelessness? It would be better off with you, right? Maybe you'd be doing it a favor, taking it away from an uncaring household.

But, alas... you're a principled man. You have ethics; standards. You could never willfully stand between a man and his belongings.

What is left for the principled man who has an unfulfillable desire? Does he make this desire known? Does he keep it a secret so that relationships between all parties continue to run smoothly? Does he take himself out of the equation altogether, eliminating both the joy of friendship and the allure of temptation?

You can't always get what you want. But if you try some time [to get what you want], then you might find [that] you get what you need, [instead]. I've been thinking about these lyrics from The Rolling Stones. What is the truth behind them? What inspired them? Does one, indeed, get what one needs if he seeks out what he wants? I look back on my life and I see myself chasing after things I want and, consequently, ignoring some of the things I need. Writing stories that never sell and land me in the poorhouse, intending to get some nice new technology while my old computer breaks down, pursuing women that fall into the arms of another. I needed money, I needed to stay technologically competitive, I needed companionship... but it all slipped through my fingers. And I'd like to say I got it all when I stopped looking for it, but, no... I got money when I applied for a better job, recommended by a friend. I got a new laptop when I put the word out that I desperately needed one. I haven't gotten a girlfriend, yet, but I'm pretty sure everyone knows I'm in the market. So, what happens when you try to get what you want and fail? You don't magically get what you need... You either come to understand that you don't need it, or you try again.

So, what is left for that principled man who has an unfulfillable desire?