Now I Can Die in Peace

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There will always be a higher mountain to climb.
There will always be a higher mountain to climb.

I root for professional sports teams in a city famous for not winning a championship in 50 years.

It’s almost statistically impossible to have a five-decade run of suckage like we’ve had in Cleveland, Ohio. That’s why sports fans in northeast Ohio collectively showcased the world’s largest erection in the history of sexual sports metaphors last summer when basketball star LeBron James announced his return to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The return of James ignited a series of events that now have the Cavaliers as the odds-on favorite in Las Vegas to win the NBA title. Probably for the next five years.

Typical fans expect major injuries to crush all of our hopes and dreams.

Sensible fans simply hope this team built for dominance will deliver Cleveland its first major sports championship in five decades.

Fans like me engage in conversation about how many championships we might win.

I’m never satisfied.

With what? I don’t know. Everything?

My poor (at worst) to middle-class (at best) upbringing shouldn’t justify my high expectations. But I have them anyway.

This dissatisfaction would manifest itself in my youth as materialism. I wanted things. I had a lot of friends with infinitely more financial resources than my family did. There was no jealousy. Please don’t think that. But it did establish a standard in my mind. A standard of living which, if achieved, would seem to indicate you’ve “made it.”

Hardly anyone has money in college. So, when I started getting my full-time job paychecks from the newspaper after graduating, I felt like I made it.

I was living in an affluent beach town on Florida’s Gulf Coast, surrounded by boat owners, country club members and owners of prime real estate. I’d feed my lust for big houses and piles of cash by walking through multi-million-dollars homes on the weekends and dreaming of life in a place like that.

That’s the recipe for making a totally pleasant three-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment three miles from the beach seem like a shitty place to live.

When we moved back to Ohio, we bought a house that would have cost three times as much in the town we’d just moved from. So it seemed awesome.

All it took was a job offer I was unable to accept that would have made me a lot of money to make my perfectly adequate house seem wholly not so.

I drive a new Jeep Grand Cherokee. But it’s not the Limited!!!

I have six televisions (and don’t even watch TV that much). But I need a new big-screen for my basement!!!

Everything is relative.

I might never have most of the things I want. But I could lose a whole bunch of things I already have and still always have everything I need.

Fortunately, my cravings are no longer material. I want to achieve a higher state of being. I want to walk a higher path.

I don’t seek things. I seek peace.

I’m intellectually capable of understanding that contentment and happiness come not from attainable things, but from within.

Even still. I want more.

Desire is Full of Endless Distances

That was the headline of marketing genius and prolific writer Seth Godin’s blog post today. I read it three times and hugged myself because sometimes that’s how much I love things I read.

Here it is:

“Just one more level on this game, she says. Once I get to level 68, I’ll be done.

Just one more tweak to the car, they beg. Once we bump up the mileage, we’ll be done.

Just one more lotion, she asks. Once I put that on, my skin will be perfect and I’ll be done.

Of course, the result isn’t the point. The mileage or the ranking or slightly more alabaster or ebony isn’t the point. The point is the longing.

Desire can’t be sated, because if it is, the longing disappears and then we’ve failed, because desire is the state we seek.

We’ve expanded our desire for ever more human connection into a never-ceasing parade of physical and social desires as well. Amplified by marketers and enabled by commerce, we race down the endless road faster and faster, at greater and greater expense. The worst thing of all would be if we actually arrived at perfect, because if we did, we would extinguish the very thing that drives us.

We want the wanting.”

Seth’s usually (always?) right. I think he’s a genius and a master of asking the right questions.

And I agree with him here.

There’s something tragic about it, too. About a life lived chasing and climbing and chasing and climbing… and never arriving, OR getting there and thinking: Shit. Now what?

I’m skinnier. But not skinny enough.

I’m stronger. But not strong enough.

I’m smarter. But not smart enough.

I’m a better man than I used to be. But I’m not good enough. And I’m now realizing I probably never will be.

Maybe I’ll never have my Rocky Balboa moment. Maybe I’ll never conquer all of my personal battles or achieve all my goals.

And there is something inherently dissatisfying about that. But it’s also honest.

And the truth is: I want the wanting.

I want to chase after the things that move me, even if it amounts to nothing more than a cat chasing its tail.

Because what the hell else am I going to do?

I want things. Things I may never have. Things that, if I acquire, might lose their appeal and have me looking longingly toward other things.

I choose to embrace the tragic purity of climbing and chasing knowing I may never arrive at my destination. That the Browns may never win a championship. That I may never have my dream home. That I may always feel like I have a bunch of growing to do.

We’re human. The real beauty is in the trying.

There. Now, I can die in peace.

20 thoughts on “Now I Can Die in Peace”

  1. I hear that Miley Cyrus song “The Climb” in my head when I read this – and it’s so true. There is always going to be another mountain….and we are always going to want to make it move. It’s the things we learn about ourselves (most importantly) on the way that make it all worthwhile. Sometimes we fall down that mountain, but it’s human nature – at some point after the bruises heal – to get back up and climb again.

    You are right, we will probably never be “enough” of what we think we need; but we will always have enough for the journey. Even if it’s not on the same path we thought we’d follow, it is always of value.

    Good post as always 🙂

  2. I love sports. Being a Kings, Braves and Raiders fan, I have felt plenty of heartbreak over the years. I watched as LeBron made television history with “The Decision”. I felt sad for Cavs fans and hated LeBron from that moment on. I want him to fail. Not because I hate the Cavs, but because I hate LeBron. I feel for the fans that are going to go through heartbreak all over again, next year, when he leaves again. I wish this weren’t true…for you.

    ‘I want things. Things I may never have. Things that, if I acquire, might lose their appeal and have me looking longingly toward other things.’ <– Me too.

    1. Click that LeBron link at the top of the post, Andi.

      He’s here to stay. The one-year deal has to do with the NBA’s new TV contract that takes effect in 2015, and players share in that revenue. James re-ups after next season with the new TV money included.

      I’m sorry we’ll be winning so many titles and ruining it for everyone else! xo 🙂

  3. “The worst thing of all would be if we actually arrived at perfect, because if we did, we would extinguish the very thing that drives us.”

    Logically that is a true statement if perfect means getting everything we want, but in reality I don’t think that kind of perfect is possible to achieve, which is a good thing. We will always want things, whether it’s physical things, a state of being, etc. No matter how many of our current goals we achieve, there will always be something next to shoot for.

    But I get it. Without the desire, there is no drive. Without the want, there is no reason to pursue anything, and then really, what’s the point?

    It’s good to want things 🙂

    1. Look how sucky I am at replying to comments!

      I agree, of course. It is good to want things, if it provides the motivation to improve ourselves or achieve things. 🙂

  4. I try to be diligent about plotting myself relative to all sorts of other people, but I can often lack perspective. I’ve been boohooing over paying for my own wedding. Isn’t that the definition of a first world problem? Especially when I actually like the guy I’m about to marry, wow. And I agree about the wanting– I love to be in pursuit of something. Best feeling ever.

    1. And I try to be diligent (not really true anymore!) about replying to comments, but I fail, big-time.

      You’re totally right. Pursuit. It kicks ass. Drives us. Then we get it.

      And what’s the first thing we think: “Now what am I going to do?”

      Go after something else. Try to go higher, longer, faster.

      Good shit.

      Weddings are totally expensive. It’s really all about the bride, so you of course, get to do whatever you want.

      I did it old-school and semi-big. Lots of people.

      Lots of people who heard me make vows and give us gifts, only to discover nine years later that we didn’t make it.

      Wish we would have done it quieter. Simpler.

      Made it not about pomp and circumstance. But about what I believe marriage to truly encompass.

      I was a real dipshit when I was 25.

      Always rooting for you, Aussa.

  5. I love LeBron. I was a (closet) fan of his even when he played against the Pistons…back when they were good & winning championships as opposed to the depressing mess they’ve been the past few years. *sigh*
    The Cavs should be golden as long as he stays with them. I almost wish I had cable so I could watch em.

    Wants are like limits in math. They get closer and closer to zero (or a hole) but can never reach it. Even when we get closer and closer to our wants being met it somehow seems there is always more to want.
    Or maybe want is directly proportional to having: the more we have the more we want.

    And six tv’s???? Seriously? That’s crazy!

      1. Still, that’s a lot….says the girl with four sewing machines (none of which get used right now due to my crazy-busy schedule). Maybe you should put them all in the same room, that would be kind of fun…like a total immersion television experience.

        1. Some day, I’m going to have a large room with three large TVs mounted on the wall in front of me (nicely).

          Like a 50″-65″-50″ set up.

          And then I’m going to sit on a super-comfortable sofa and watch several ball games at the same time.

          That’s going to be rad.

          As my life is currently structured, that would be an extremely irresponsible use of my limited financial resources.

  6. I think about this a fair bit. I feel like there are two camps, regular people going about their business, wanting stuff every day. And then another set say it’s bad to want stuff. Deep down inside I agree that it’s okay to want, and we all do it. I think it’s wired in us, and even if it isn’t, so what. I try not to judge other people’s wants, for I’m not them, and they aren’t me.

    In the end it’s about being happy.

    Sometimes the fantasy of it all – talking about a new car, a championship, whatever – is enough. Also I suppose the reasoning behind the want is important too. Do you want something to show off? Then probably not a great want. Do you want something to satisfy a dream, because you’ll die someday and it’s your life, and no one will remember anyway? Then probably a good want to have.

    I’ve been trying to curate my wants. Before I lost my job (and def. before we had children) we could pretty much buy anything we wanted. Now we live in a week to week hell but we’re still doing alright; just have to imagine more and satisfy “wants” less. So it forces the creation of want lists like 1) happy children, 2) everything else…

    I still want material things. But with time the list of wants has changed.

    1. I really, really, really like this comment, Chris. And I’m very sorry it took me eight days to respond to it.

      A thousand apologies.

        1. I can’t tell whether you’re trying to make me sad about the Browns, Chris.

          But I’ll have you know… 9-7 sounds lovely compared to what we usually have to digest around here.

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Matt Fray

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