Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Eric Hoffer: on desire

"7.  Every intense desire is perhaps basically a desire to be different from what we are.  Hence probably the imperiousness of the desire for fame, which is a desire for a self utterly unlike the real self."

"8.  There is even in the most selfish passion a large element of self-abnegation.  It is startling to realize that what we call extreme self-seeking is actually self-abnegation.  The miser, health addict, glory chaser, and their like are not far behind the selfless in the excise of self-sacrifice.

Every extreme attitude is a flight from the self."

-- Eric Hoffer --
from The Passionate State of Mind

Desires or needs seem to signify a lack in ourselves or perhaps a feeling that all is not right with us, that something is missing, while those who lack desire are those who are content with who they are and with what they have.  If so, then our consumer-oriented culture suggests that a majority of us are dissatisfied with ourselves, and advertising agencies use this to manipulate us into buying products that will make us happy by filling gaps or by changing ourselves into something we are not at this moment.

All advertisements directly or indirectly suggest that this product is something we must have if we are to be happy, and many go even a step further.  In order to assuage any possible guilt at purchasing the product or service, which might be viewed as a luxury or perhaps self-indulgence, the ad tells us that we "deserve" this product or service, in other words, you should have this, whatever is may be.

What I wonder is how this ever came about?  What is it that we lack that earlier generations seemed to have?


  1. "What I wonder is how this ever came about? What is it that we lack that earlier generations seemed to have?"

    Possibly spiritual fulfillment?

  2. Cheryl,

    That could be the problem for many. Religious teachers and mystics for thousands of years have insisted that we can never be satisfied with material things, that our desires are really for a union with the deity, which alone can satisfy us.

  3. It's our greed that's increasing. The more the world grow, the more we want.

  4. JJ Wong,

    Is it our greed that's increasing, or is it that there are more things available now to be manipulated into coveting?