I read this today in the Tao te Ching:
"Too much color blinds the eye,
Too much music deafens the ear,
Too much taste dulls the palate,
Too much play maddens the mind,
Too much desire tears the heart.
In this manner the sage cares for people:
He provides for the belly, not for the senses;
He ignores abstraction and holds fast to substance."
I've been thinking about our eternal quest for pleasure we have as Americans and I'll say it again, this is what has us in the trouble we are in. Enough is never enough.
Instead of simple sustenance, we want an epicurean delight.
Instead of simple transportation, we want the ultimate driving experience.
Instead of simple housing, we want the American dream.
Instead of simple clothing, we want a new winter wardrobe.
Instead of a simple holiday, we want the vacation of a lifetime.
Is there anything inherently wanting more? Isn't that how we were made?
Even 2500 years ago, it was apparently enough of a problem to end up in this ancient Chinese text. The problem with letting desires trump substance is that soon there will be no substance in the desires. You will just want more for the sake of having more. Anyone who has raised children know this is human nature at its core.
The line "He ignores abstraction and holds fast to substance." is exactly why we are in the mess we are in economically in the world today. We have chosen the abstract desires over the substance of family, friends, simplicity and love.
Even to my ears this sounds sappy, which is a symptom of the disease.