06 May 2010

I Want It, I Want It, I Want It

I just paid a deposit on a new computer, the first Mac I've owned since 1993. I should be psyched about changing from a four year-old PC to a sophisticated 13" Macbook Pro, but I feel strangely underwhelmed. I keep wondering whether I've made a mistake. As a shopaholic—my primary addiction is low-budget secondhand clothing and accessories—I expected to feel the normal rush of post-purchase euphoria, not all this free-floating anxiety.

Earlier this year I decided I needed a new computer even though my small and slow four year-old Fujitsu laptop still handles all my writing, emailing, internet needs. I pictured myself slipping a lightweight new Fujitsu netbook into my bag and traveling to...somewhere. Surely a tiny netbook would inspire me to greater heights of word production. What an insane fantasy for someone who six months ago could barely string two coherent sentences together! Even now I sometimes find writing a huge slog.

I've used Fujitsu computers for 14 years because of the company's personalized service and extremely helpful staff. Recently the last of the original employees left and the new team neither knows nor cares about me or my need for a new computer. I easily let go of my attachment to Fujitsu. Its new range of glossy multicolored PCs look terminally tacky compared to the sophisticated older models. So does every PC out on the market today. And that's when visions of Macbooks started dancing in my head. "I want it, I want it, I want it," came a little voice from somewhere inside me. And unlike in the Who's famous Magic Bus, no voice piped up to say, "You can't have it."

Was the desire for a new computer a sincere need or just a want masquerading as a necessity? According to the second of the Four Noble Truths in Buddhist philosophy, all suffering stems from craving, whether for a computer, a pair of 500-baht secondhand clogs, two bars of chocolate or a relationship. Even if/when we receive the object of our craving, it never brings lasting happiness. Soon we yearn for the next must-have item or experience. This constant state of wanting more deprives us of happiness and contentment in the present moment.

High minded twaddle I thought a decade ago when I first heard about the Four Noble Truths. One day during last February's session I outed my shopping addiction to Sifu H and he reiterated the same concepts. After one intensely frustrating morning working with him, I headed straight for a market in Chiang Mai and bought a 250-baht pair of secondhand Levis I really didn't want and definitely didn't need. As I forked over the cash, I thought angrily to myself, "Ha! That'll show him." I noticed my pursed lips and furrowed brow and suddenly felt the anger at the root of this sudden shopping attack rise up from my gut. Clearly even 100 pairs of secondhand Levis wouldn't assuage this violent emotion.

Since then, I've started examining the root cause of my weekly Saturday forays to Chatuchak Weekend Market. A single pair of pants, a top, dress, or pair vintage plastic earrings is enough to satisfy my craving. But craving for what? I love the praise I receive for my eclectic one-of-a-kind dress style, but that's not enough to keep me coming back week after week. I still don't understand the true nature of the desire behind my shopping addiction. Nor do I know whether the Mac is yet another casualty of the Second Noble Truth or a realistic need.

1 comment:

ben said...