Monday, July 26

In my last post I talked about how I wanted to own books that I didn't really want to read, I wanted to know information that I wasn't really sure that I wanted to know. If this sounds strange, it felt strange, too. Disorienting. I felt like I was living life at arm's length, more concerned with attaining some image I had than following my immediate feelings.

A character in Jonathan Safran Foer's Everything Is Illuminated lived the same kind of life during her childhood.

"Brod's life was a slow realization that the world was not for her, and that for whatever reason, she would nver be happy and honest at the same time....

"If we to open to a random page in her journal... we would find some rendering of the following sentiment:
I am not in love.

"So she had to satisfy herself with the
idea of love--loving the loving of things whose existence she didn't care at all about. Love itself became the object of her love. She loved herself in love, she loved loving love, as love loves loving, and was able, in that way, to reconcile herself with a world that fell so short of what she would have hoped for. It was not the world that was the great and saving lie, but her willingness ot make it beautiful and fair, to live a once-removed life, in a world once-removed from the one in which everyone else seemed to exist."

Economists, too, use the idea of higher-order wants--things we want to want--to try to explain how people actually act.

I guess I've been trying to get in touch with something more fundamental lately. I have this persistent want to be normal. Not that I want to be enthralled by blockbuster movies, to dress like everyone else, to turn on the radio and hum along with pop tunes. I want to love and be loved. I want to follow my desires. These are higher-order wants too, but they're pointed back toward something simpler. So why don't I just love? Why don't I just follow my appetites? For one, there's a conflict between the way I'm used to doing things and this new way. I was a fairly strict vegetarian for about six years. So now, when I salivate at the thought of a hamburger, do I get one? I did yesterday. Do I feel guilty about eating the meat? I usually do, at least a little bit. Do feel guilty about the thought of eating meat? I feel a little higher-order guilt here too. But I feel like I'm being more honest, in a way, when I want to eat meat and then I do.


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