Why we don't know what we want anymore.
How often have you pined for 'the golden days' or 'the good old days' only to think back and realize how badly you wanted to be somewhere else: preferably the future? If you think about it, even during 'the good old days' you were looking for something else--another when. Now you're in a radically different place and chances are things haven't gotten better as a result of moving forward. The good old days were when you dreamed of the future you're now living, only your dream didn't exactly go as you mapped it out in your head. Instead, it's the way it is exactly at this point in time. So here you are and here it is too. Life on life's terms without your consent or permission. Is it what you wanted? Are you looking for the golden days again? You probably can't recreate them if you tried. Because not only did they never exist, they only existed in your imagination of hindsight. The past always has a charming glow, a thin chimera of 'better experiences'. But it wasn't so. And to think it was is dishonest.
And what do you want for your future now? We'll perpetually fall into this trap, so let's not kid ourselves otherwise. We want a future bright and certain and filled with happiness. Happiness is an idea when all the causes and conditions come into alignment to support our desires and needs in an effortless and harmonious way. In other words: brief, and unreliable from an external point of view. Happiness, as it is said, is 'an inside job'. It's also an idea. Joy on the other hand is something you can bring into your awareness by taking a step back, a breath, recognizing what you already have and filling yourself up with gratitude. Your friends, your family, your accomplishments, your possessions--all these can bring you joy if you allow yourself to revel in them. Happiness is more akin to a giddy sensation and almost always fleeting. Again, it's just a concept. Move past the clinginess you feel toward your pursuit of happiness. Instead recognize that life is full of strife, suffering, with bouts of needless and senseless destruction. Entropy, good people getting the raw deal. Sane people losing their minds. Also recognize that life is full of amazing people who bring inspiration, education, erudition, illumination and groundbreaking changes to those who suffer right along with them.
In other words: the opposites of life are side by side, clasping hands and batting hands away from each other. You're not going to have a great life without opposition, and if you think that's the case you're delusional. You will not have all your desires and wishes come true. No one does. Thinking it's possible or likely is worse than a pointless endeavor: it's dangerous. We don't grow without strife, without struggle. We can't even comprehend purpose without strife and struggle because without those elements a person is grown in a vacuum--like a carrot grown without dirt, in some kind of tube.
You don't know what you want anymore in life because either you have everything (and are still suffering/unhappy etc.) or you have nothing you actually want (in the end it amounts to the same), or you have just enough to know you want more but can never attain it. If you're reading this you're not likely to be starving. You have a computer in front of you--even if you're at a public library, you're still better off than so much of the population of earth.
You can't know what you want anymore because, if you're living in the Western World (North America) you are constantly told what you need in order to be happy, successful, liked, approved of and everything else. You don't know what you want because you want everything or you're turned off by all the incessant media suggestions. This leaves an ever widening gap in your psyche, does it not?
And to fill that gap, that black hole of uncertainty and desire, you'll do anything. Well, almost anything. You'll climb the highest mountain, read the most books, paint the best pictures, watch the most Netflix, eat the best food, run the fastest 5K, bench the most weight at the gym, be the best at your job, and so on and so forth. And when you tally up all your accomplishments you'll still be you, no different than when you embarked on the journey to do it all, see it all, experience every pleasure...and at some point you'll have to recognize that death is staring you down. Either from what seems like afar or from a'near. Who knows? It's the only thing you don't know. And with so much stuff available in this world, how can you possibly truly know what it is you want?
Even if you practice joy each day, looking around and calling forth joy, you'll look at that as an attainment, as a possession. Will you not? And then you have to ask yourself how valuable is it to experience joy every day?
I submit to you that you already have more than you could ever want right now, and that the only thing you haven't got yet is true recognition. Just recognizing all you have. Take some time each day to really look at what's available to you. Look at who is available to you. Recognize that there's a monumental, gargantuan, hunger roiling away inside you. Recognize that the hunger doesn't want to be fed all the shit from the world. It doesn't need that. The hunger you have inside only wants you. All of you. You and you and nothing but you. You are the only answer to the eternal question; 'what do I want?' You are the only water in the desert of your own mind to slake your thirst and the only meal prepared right enough to fill the gap. You right now as you are, with all your endless thoughts and feelings and memories and experiences and quirks--you're enough. When you take some time to be with your hunger and feed your attention and presence back on yourself, the flame of hungry desire submits and grows weak until its died out.
I sit in meditation just to feed my never ending hunger. It quiets the less palatable demons that drive me.
This is a temporary affect, however. It requires constant application until you're dead. Because all hunger is cyclical, all thirst comes back again.
There's No End
Nobody gets a pass at desire. We're born with it and will die with it. The only element I've found that stabilizes that hunger is vigilant meditation, pouring myself back into myself. And from it arise major insights about how to be and apply myself in this world. Not just for the sake of doing good and being accepted in society, but for the sake of evolution, art, and providing something perhaps less tangible to those I'm surrounded by. The joy of meditation is absolutely not an escape route: it's a way back into this world, where I can also be with you. Where I can be with myself. Where you can be with you.