Sam Radford

August 8, 2023

The desire line

We all ‘want it all’, right? 

At the very least, very few of us don’t want more.

A bigger house. A better job. A fancier car.

The latest smartphone. Nicer clothes. More glamorous holidays.

That list may not be your more, but there’ll be something. And we convince ourselves that life will be better once we get that thing.

We do this again and again, despite all the evidence we could ever need from previous purchases that, after the initial thrill, we quickly find ourselves wanting something else. We instantly redraw the desire line higher, or further ahead.

It’s a pathway to permanent dissatisfaction. It’s the pathway most of us end up living on within a consumerist society.

Those that (seemingly) have it all, are those we aspire to. We look to the rich, the famous, the celebrities and think, If I was like them, I’d have all that I want.

I have a question though. What if this is all upside down? What if it isn’t those that have the most that ‘have it all’, but rather those who have the least? What if freedom and joy comes from less, not more? What if the key to having everything, is to possess nothing?

Isn’t ‘possession’ a passing illusion really, anyway? We think we possess the house we live in, but give it a while and we’re six feet under! The same is true for everything. We don’t truly possess anything.

When it comes to this world we live in, we’re all merely stewards of all we survey. It’s all a gift. It’s all temporary. Freedom comes when we step out of the illusion and into reality.

We’ve bought into a false myth that personal ownership is necessary for enjoyment. I see this in myself. I could borrow the book from the library, but I want to own a copy. Why?! My daughters are the same. They want their own of everything.

This is a trap. If we are convinced we need to own everything to feel like we have it all, we’ll never arrive; it’s a path without a destination. Sounds like… hell?

This life approach also makes it all about me. Me and my possessions. Mine, mine, mine. Which, of course, also feeds the jealous comparisons. They have more than me; I’ll be happy when I have more than them. 

Which brings me to some ancient wisdom: Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

Meekness doesn’t make many of those listicles does it? ‘Five steps to living meekly’; ‘10 ways meekness will give you the life of your dreams’.

We’ve arrived at an understanding that equates meekness with weakness. We think meekness means allowing ourselves to be trodden on, walked over, pushed aside. The idea that meek (weak) people could ‘inherit the earth’ makes no sense.

And it doesn’t! Not if we’re bought into the life of consumerism, ownership, possessions, and more. Meekness, though, is about the posture of our heart towards the earth and everything in it.

When we step off the ‘more, more, more’ treadmill, and walk through life with open palms rather than grabbing fists, suddenly everything is ours. We don’t need to own a thing to enjoy everything. We are freed from the ever-rising, ever-moving desire line. Living as passing pilgrims and temporary stewards of this earth we walk on for a few short years, there is a joy and satisfaction that no amount of possessions will ever come close to bringing.

Another translation of the word ‘meek’ from its Greek source is ‘non-violent’. Inheriting the earth doesn’t come from violently seizing everything we possibly can in order to feel better about ourselves. But that is consumerism in a nutshell. Always taking more for ourselves. Happiness and freedom will not be found on this path.

What do we do with this insight though? What can we change to move our lives onto a path of true meekness?
It starts within. With a commitment; an intention. We embark on this new journey with a decision to choose to live non-violently – meekly – in our world. It’s an attitude of the heart. We can only hope to change if we live with our eyes wide open. 

We start by looking for the ways we have bought into consumerism. We notice it. We call it out in ourselves. We won’t ever fully live up to our new ambitions. But by allowing this new way of thinking to find a place in our hearts, we at least open the door to it affecting how we live in the world.

Even if we only succeed in stopping the desire line from endlessly rising, that’s progress! We’ll be freer to savour all that we have (without ‘having’ needing to mean owning).

Thanks for reading,

About Sam Radford

Husband, father, lover of books, writer, tech geek, sports fan, and pragmatic idealist from Sheffield, England.