When people ask me what I want, I often can’t answer. Which movie do I want to see? Which food do I want to eat? Which project do I want to work on? Where would I like to live? I look inside, compare the options, listen to my thoughs and inner dialog, and I still don’t know.
People get upset at me because they think that I don’t care enough to answer. Nothing is farthest from the truth. I seriously consider the question. I weight the answers. I try to be fair. Sometimes I come up with a fake answer, just to say something. I know they have the best of intentions. They want to make me happy, they want me to stop complaining or being moody.
What is it? Perhaps the right option for me doesn’t exist, and everything else is at same level of mediocre desirability? It’s just a failure of my imagination that prevents me from dreaming of new possibilities? Or do I have weak desire system? (I do however, have very strong feelings about the things I don’t want)
Perhaps I’m confusing these questions about immediate gratification with questions about life and happiness. “Which movie would you like to see?” becomes in my mind “which movie will change my life forever? Which food would be my madeleine and trigger the creation of my masterpiece? Which project will make me feel loved and fulfilled?”
I really would like to be able to spit out simple and strong opinions about everything in the world. I would like to be able to give the black and white answers I hear from people all the times: “I love this! I hate this! This is what I really want! Yuck!” But I can’t. I try sometimes, and it sounds fake.
But I also think that my inability to know what I want has to do with the porous borders between myself and the world. What is real? What is true? What is me? What is not-me?
As young kids, both my sister and I had strange perceptual experiences. For both of us, these altered perceptions only happened when we were alone. They were not exactly scary, but they were strange and unsettling.
In my case, the texture of reality would slowly change, drifting away from normality. The entire world would become rougher or smoother. Matter would became larger and lighter, as a balloon slowly inflating. The familiar “sense” of reality would be lost. The way the world looked, sounded, and smelled changed, in a tactile way.
My sister called her altered perceptual states “velocite.” Time seemed to change its pace and got progressively too fast or too slow. I’m pretty sure that it was the same phenomenon, and we just described it differently because words are a poor tool to describe altered perceptions. But it’s impossible to tell.
Only when somebody arrived the spell broke and the world would suddenly recalibrate itself. The presence of another person would function as a reference point and bring time back to the right pace and give back the right texture to the world.
This experience convinced me that reality is much more of a flexible concept than it seems at first glance. The sense of “reality” is a mix of ourselves, the physical world, and the social world.
So, where does this leave our selves? Which movie do I want to see? Which life do I want to live? So many questions, so few answers.