We Don’t Know What It Is That We Want

It is very strange that we don’t know what it is that we want. Then why do we think there is anything we want? Because we want it. Why do we think we want it? Because we are unhappy.

Oh, you say that is only because we are poor or stupid or oppressed. No. It is preciously when we are rich and smart and free that we feel this desire the most. It is preciously these peak experiences, those highest moments in your life that you feel most clearly and poignantly the desire for something more. This lovers’ quarrel with the world. This happens not among the poor but among the rich, not among the uneducated but among the educated, not among the insensitive but among the sensitive.

When you see the most remarkable natural beauty or find the most complete human love or reconciliation, it is then when it looks most like a pointing finger, a prophet, an icon from heaven, a suggestion that there is something more. The perfume that you thought was its own end, when you get close to it, seems like the perfume from a beautiful woman who is unattainable, a goddess.

Maybe it is much clearer if you put it negatively. Nothing in this world is totally satisfactory. We are discontent the more self-aware we are.

— Peter Kreeft, from lecture on “Desire” (The innate hunger for total joy)  <link>