Our satisfaction depends on our ability to contain frustration
Any ideal, any preferred world, is a way of asking, what kind of world are we living in that makes this the solution (our utopias tell us more about our lived lives, and their privations, than about our wished-for lives); or, to put it more clinically, what would the symptom have to be for this to be the self-cure? In our unlived lives we are always more satisfied, far less frustrated versions of ourselves. In our wishes — which Freud put at the center of our lives — we bridge the gap between what we are and what we want to be as if by magic; and, by the same token, we sow the seeds of our unlived lives. In Freud's story our possibilities for satisfaction depend upon our capacity for frustration; if we can't let ourselves feel our frustration —and, surprisingly, this is a surprisingly difficult thing to do — we can't get a sense of what it is we might be wanting, and missing, of what might really give us pleasure (greed is despair about pleasure). Describing how our wanting works, and works against us — how all our wanting has a history — Freud shows us that frustration is at once both the source of our pleasure and the inspiration for our unlived lives. That frustration is where we start from; the child's dawning awareness of himself is an awareness of something necessary not being there. The child becomes present to himself in the absence of something he needs. The experiences described in this book of not getting it, of getting away with it, and of getting out of it are all chapters in our unlived lives, potentially productive forms of ordinary frustration. Missing out on one experience we have another one. And then the comparisons are made. We choose by exclusion. The right choice is the one that makes us lose interest in the alternatives; but we can never know beforehand which the right choice will be.
We never know if one frustration will lead to another. 'In general it is also certainly true to say,' Freud wrote in `Contributions to the Psychology of Erotic Life', 'that the psychical significance of a drive rises in proportion to its frustration.' The more we frustrate ourselves in wanting something the more we value our desire for it. But Freud is also saying that it is only in states of frustration that we can begin to imagine — to elaborate, to envision — our desire. Though Freud is telling us something here about the pleasures of asceticism, this is not a counsel of renunciation; he is recommending frustration as the essential preparation for desire, as the precondition for its flourishing, and for the possibility of there being some satisfaction. When we are frustrated the unlived life is always beckoning; the unlived life of gratified desire returns as a possibility. Waiting too long poisons desire, but waiting too little pre-empts it; the imagining is in the waiting. In consciously contrived instant gratification neither desire nor the object of desire is sufficiently imagined. Wanting takes time; partly because it takes some time to get over the resistances to wanting, and partly because we are often unconscious of what it is that we do want.
Be the change that you want to see in the world.
Simplicity, patience, compassion.
These three are your greatest treasures.
Simple in actions and thoughts, you return to the source of being.
Patient with both friends and enemies,
you accord with the way things are.
Compassionate toward yourself,
you reconcile all beings in the world.
Cultivate your intelligence, dear students, but also take care that it does not subordinate itself to everything else, and that the accessory does not become the main one. May your heart not be the fool of your mind. Pascal said: "The heart has its reasons of which reason knows nothing"; yet this deep word is not of absolute accuracy. For if the heart has its reasons, Reason knows them and recognizes itself in them.
The whole work of Reason consists in subordinating Intelligence to the Heart.
The search for something permanent is one of the deepest of the instincts leading men to philosophy. It is derived, no doubt, from love of home and desire for a refuge from danger (...) Philosophers have sought with great persistence, for something not subject to the empire of time.
We get into the habit of living before acquiring the habit of thinking.