Greed is one of Mankind's less noble attributes, and there are so very many things to be greedy about: money, power, adulation, food. I tend to concentrate my greed on time. I can never get enough of it, and that's unfortunate because it is the one thing of which there is only a finite amount. If you work very hard, you can get more money, or more power, or more adulation, or more food. But time is as strictly rationed as the grains of sand in an hourglass.
A friend recently sent me a group of stunning photos of a series of picturesque alpine villages, and my heart ached because I wanted to be there; to live in one of those absolutely amazing, charming thatched-roof dwellings clustered high on idyllic hillsides surrounded by towering, snowcapped peaks and overlooking vast, lush forests or green valley or smooth-as-glass lakes reflecting the mountains and sky.
It is, as I've said, human nature to be greedy: to always want more than we can possibly have, to want to be more places than we can possibly be, to want to see and do more than any single human can possibly see or do.
And I realized that the fact of the matter...the fact of life itself...is that of the infinite number of places one could, and would love to be, one can only be in at place at one time. That place can be changed for another, but still only one place at a time.
I look at those quaint mountain villages with envy and yearning, yet for 24 years, I myself lived in the incredible beauty of the Great North woods of northern Wisconsin, and walked along the wind-swept, deserted shores of Lake Superior, looking out at the whitecap-flecked expanse of water under a pristine blue sky across which billowing white clouds moved majestically, and thought often of the tens of thousands of city-bound people who would give anything to live in such surroundings. It should have been enough, but it wasn't. I returned to the city so many long to flee, and I am by and large content here. But there is a great difference between "by and large" and "completely."
I am so grateful to have been able to return to Europe this year, to see and do so much in the space of one month. London, Paris, Cannes, Venice, Rome...all marvelous, incredibly beautiful places. But, as I left each one, I had no desire to start planning my return any time soon. Not really a matter of "been there, done that," but close. With perhaps a shocking ingratitude, I dismiss all I have done and seen and been given, and want to be on a barge on the Nile, or having a picnic on the beach of some tropical island, or aboard a ship sailing the fjords of Norway.
Were I able to live surrounded by the beauty of any location anywhere in the world, I know full well that somehow I would not, could not be satisfied for long, any more than I was with living in the beauty of the Great North woods. My initial wonder would soon become sated and I would want to be somewhere else; no matter where I am/was or how much I have/had, I would want more.
Our movies, our books, our TV mislead us. We are inundated with the images of beautiful people doing wonderful, exciting things; living glamorous, exciting lives in exotic, fascinating locations; climbing mountains; running with the bulls in Pamplona; sailing down the Nile; exploring ancient ruins: it all blends together to tell us, "See what they're doing? Why aren't you doing it, too?" We are--I am--overcome with envy at all the things James Bond can do in the course of a 90-minute movie, of all the places he can go and everything he can accomplish. The implied assumption is that someone...we...could actually be doing all this too. We never give a single thought to the fact that each scene merely captures those people in it doing what they are doing at that moment, and that that is the only place they are or can be at that given time, and that what they are doing is the only thing they are or can be doing at that time. It's hard...for me, at any rate...to acknowledge that with so much to do and see, we can only do one thing at at time, and that no single life contains 1/10,000th enough time to do everything we might want to do.
Which does not stop us/me from wanting it all.
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