It helps to consider Buddha’s Four Truths as applicable to all animals, even to all life forms as I pointed out in Buddha’s Truths Pertain To All Life. Why do only we humans need to have them spelled out? As seen from a symptoms point of view, we’ve become less capable of taking responsibility for life. However, I doubt this would have been a problem before the Agricultural Revolution. Explicating these types of ‘truths’, means that we are now struggling to find causes and solutions for our problems and sorrows. Simply put, we’re no longer able to stay ‘grounded’. The circumstances of civilization probably make life too changeable and confusing to ‘answering to one’s destiny’. In addition, cognition plays a role in this issue, with our ability to idealize the ‘perfect solutions’, and thereby further destabilize life. Again, as chapter 16 reveals:
Devote effort to emptiness, sincerely watch stillness.
Everything ‘out there’ rises up together, and I watch again.
Everything ‘out there’, one and all, return again to their root cause.
Returning to the root cause is called stillness;
this means answering to one’s destiny.
Answering to one’s destiny is called the constant;
knowing the constant is called honest.
The Cause of Suffering
Buddha’s Second Noble Truth states, “The cause of suffering is lust”. Knowing the cause of a problem is essential to deal with it effectively. Much of the time, we fail to look inward, and instead seek scapegoats ‘out there’ to blame; we jump to conclusions and solutions. In nature, most problems a creature faces are ‘out there’, so I expect this failure to look inward for a cause is instinctive.
Alas, resolving our ‘life problem’ is not like fixing a flat tire or any other external problem. Looking inward for causes is Buddha’s first step, Right Comprehension! With that, the other steps on Buddha’s Path follow naturally, in due course. So, how do we achieve Right Comprehension? I’ve found self-honesty is more than enough. Without self-honesty, scapegoats fill any void in understanding.
The Second Noble Truth is the cause of suffering. The cause of suffering is lust. The surrounding world affects sensation and begets a craving thirst that clamors for immediate satisfaction. The illusion of self originates and manifests itself in a cleaving to things. The desire to live for the enjoyment of self entangles us in a net of sorrows. Pleasures are the bait and the result is pain.
Desire or Need?
Notice the words lust, thirst, and desire. Desire is a villain in all religions. Of course, in Buddhism, desire redeems itself if as the Fourth Noble Truth states, ‘the sole desire is the performance of duty’. This parallels the Taoist view… Taking this, the wise person desires non desire. In short, we simply need to ‘desire non desire’, or ‘only desire doing our duty! Somehow, we must manage desire. I’m certain that is a major rationale behind free will, whether implied or explicit. It purports to enable us to choose the ‘right’ path and control desire.
I sometimes hear a distinction drawn between desires and needs as though they were opposites, e.g., “you don’t need that, you just desire it”. Let’s consider this carefully. Need conveys a primal driving force, just as plants need water. I guess you could even say water needs to flow downhill. On the other hand, it probably sounds a bit silly to say water desires to flow downhill, or that plants desire water. Presumably, it sounds silly because we don’t believe either of these as being able to think, let alone having a free will power to choose.
Let’s move up the food chain; how about a dog? Dogs need water; can they ‘desire’ water as well? Or is it merely instinctive need that drives them? Moving further up the food chain, humans need water; we can also desire a cool glass of it as well. What is the real difference between need and desire?
Is Desire More Responsible than Need?
The dog, plant, or human is not responsible for needing water. Here, need and desire have similar ends. It is simply biology at work. How about needing to fill swimming pools and water lawns during a severe drought? Ostensibly, we don’t need pools and lawns, so if a man wastes water on these, we deem his desire to do so irresponsible — even more so if he acts on that desire!
We are not responsible for needing food either. Here also, need and desire have similar ends based in biology. How about the desire to eat fish? That’s fine, but what if that desire leads to the extinction of a particular species of fish? Are we ethically responsible? How about when a particular fungi’s appetite leads to the extinction of a plant species (e.g. the American Chestnut)? Is the fungus ethically responsible? No? Why? Is it because it was ignorant and didn’t know better? However, we say that ignorance is no excuse. When we do something out of ignorance we are still responsible, we’re born ‘sinners’, born with ‘bad karma’, while fungi gets off scot free. What gives?
The elephant in the room here is the distinction made between the rest of nature and humans. It appears that we are responsible under certain conditions, while the rest of nature is always innocent. Indeed, is nature ever ‘bad’ or ‘evil’? We see ourselves outside of nature, whether it’s that fungi above decimating those trees, or any other aspect of nature. Curiously, we place ourselves in a special category — unlike the rest of nature, we deem our selves conscious and responsible.
Does the Distinction Lie in the Perception of Self?
We don’t view other species as having a self to be responsible. Other species don’t say, “I desire to eat”. So, when a cow overgrazes, it’s just responding to instinctive need. On the other hand, when we ‘over-graze’ and become obese, we are making irresponsible choices. The implication is that we ‘should’ know better, and that knowing better is somehow sufficient to control our actions. The fact that we call ourselves Homo sapiens – ‘wise man’ – says it all. Adam and Eve ate the apple and voilà, they knew ‘right’ from ‘wrong’, ’good’ from ‘evil’. They fell into the dynamic pointed to in chapter 2, All under heaven realizing beauty as beauty, wickedness already. All realizing goodness as goodness, no goodness already. We judge our species uniquely wise, and so we naturally feel that we ‘should’ know better.
We assume that we’re able to ‘know’, while other species are not. More curious is the fact that this ability to know ‘right’ from ‘wrong’ only kicks in when we approach adulthood. We hold that young children don’t know ‘right’ from ‘wrong’ well enough to have free will — to choose responsibly. We don’t hold them truly responsible for their desires or actions, at least theoretically. Central here is the belief that humans can be morally responsible at some arbitrary age and correctly choose ‘right’ from ‘wrong’.
Where does this perception of self come from? The Second Noble Truth observes that, The illusion of self originates and manifests itself in a cleaving to things. Naturally, cleaving to a belief that we can freely choose ‘right’ from ‘wrong’ only reinforces this illusion of self. If we extinguish the illusion of self, of ‘I’, as the Third Noble Truth suggests, how would we then play this game of life?
Back to Square One
We all agree that the need for water is a biologically based drive. Thirst will drive us to seek water. Hunger will drive us to seek food, just as it drives a dog, a cow, or fungi. These two, hunger and thirst, are the common denominators between need and desire.
Hunger and thirst are the subjective experience that drives us toward whatever we subjectively feel a lack of, and thus a need for. Any confusion and hypocrisy arises only after we begin to objectify the hunger and thirst experience. We parse these drives into ethical degrees ranging from natural needs to frivolous desires. We rationalize our subjective thirst as serious need, yet we objectify other people’s thirst as frivolous desires. My ‘need’ trumps your ‘desire’, and presto! Hypocrisy is born.
A good example of drawing ethical and aesthetical lines in the sand is love and compassion. Where do we draw the ‘compassion’ line? Do we hold human life more precious than all the rest, or shall we draw the line at mammals as a whole, and rank everything else ‘lower’. Fish are cute, so shall we draw the line at insects, or if not there, at bacteria? Surely, we must stop there; we can’t draw the line at plants.
There will always be a ‘good’ reason for drawing the line here or there. Honestly though, these are just rationalizations to make us feel comfortable with killing anything we feel we need. Like children, we always find a way to justify what we feel we need.
Are you feeling need and desire becoming increasingly indistinguishable? Let’s consider this subject from a strictly subjective point of view. If I’m dying of thirst, I feel I need water. Once I have all the water I feel I need, I’ll ‘thirst’ for the next thing that I feel I need, like imported bottled water. Once satiated, I’ll ‘thirst’ for the next thing that I feel I need, and then… you name it. Really! Name something! Remember, we’re talking about the subjective I feel I need experience here! With each thirst quenched, perceived need tends to up the ante.
The Standard of Living’s bottom line rises naturally, just like a pet cat who becomes a fussy eater when its survival no longer depends on food. Because my standard of living’s bottom line rises, my thirst for what I feel I need always feels essential in my eyes, even though it may look frivolous to you. I still feel as if I’m ‘dying of thirst’ if I can’t get what I feel I need.
Try this out. Pick anything that you feel you need to be happier. Ironically, no matter how well off you are objectively speaking, you’ll always end up back at ‘square one’, in terms of need. No amount of money or good fortune reverses this process. In fact, these can even make it worse. Jesus alluded to the irony with, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God”.
Yang and Yin Energies — Attraction and Aversion
Life has two biologically polar emotional ‘energy’ potentials. One is ‘need energy’ that always pushes life forward. The other is ‘fear energy’ which always pulls life backward. Both work in concert, yang and yin style, to keep living things in relative balance throughout life. These primal ‘energies’, are open ended — meaning they don’t burn out. Satisfying their pushing and pulling only ups the ante and or changes the focus.
Biology ‘hoodwinks’ life with a compelling illusion. Life feels subjectively certain that if it satisfies ‘this need’ or avoids ‘this fear’ it will survive and ultimately find contentment. This instinctive ‘energy’ is what actually chooses what all living beings do and don’t do. This includes humans! It plays out like this: we ‘need’ what we like, we ‘fear’ what we dislike, we ‘need’ to eliminate what we dislike and we ‘fear’ losing what we like. The First Noble Truth sums it up like this:
The First Noble Truth is the existence of sorrow. Birth is sorrowful, growth is sorrowful, illness is sorrowful, and death is sorrowful. Sad it is to be joined with that which we do not like. Sadder still is the separation from that which we love, and painful is the craving for that which cannot be obtained.
Of course, our ‘ego’ — the illusion of self — thinks ‘it’ is in control of this situation. Here in lies the source of our unnecessary sufferings. This ‘hoodwink’ illusion is so convincing that we go round and round endlessly chasing the needs we feel and avoiding the fears we feel to find ‘happiness’.
So what is the difference between need and desire? I see this as the interplay between core emotions, need and fear, and cognition. Briefly, Need + thinking = Desire and that Fear + thinking = Worry. For more see Fear & Need Born in Nothing. And, herein lies the value of the Fourth Noble Truth.
‘Natural Discipline’ — Nature’s Push Back on the Polar Energies.
Let’s review the Fourth Noble Truth:
The Fourth Noble Truth is the Middle Path that leads to the cessation of suffering. There is salvation for him whose self disappears before truth, whose will is bent on what he ought to do, whose sole desire is the performance of his duty. He who is wise will enter this path and make an end to suffering. Eight steps on the Middle Path are:
Right Comprehension, Right Resolution, Right Speech, Right Action,
Right Living, Right Effort, Right Thought, and Right State of Peaceful Mind.
The principle power of this Truth lies in “whose will is bent on what he ought to do, whose sole desire is the performance of his duty”. This turns desire around and points it back in the direction of primal need. How? Duty has a long-term quality to it, as opposed to fleeting desires that pop up and lead us off on one pleasure-hunt after another. Duty suggests the opposite quality of desire’s impetuous nature. Duty slows or even reverses the inexorable rise in ‘bottom line’ standards to which civilization easily leads us.
The Fourth Truth helps compensate for the loss of ‘natural discipline’ that ‘wild’ uncivilized circumstances provide all living things. This ‘natural discipline’ helps life maintain balance. ‘Wild’ uncivilized circumstances do this by pushing back on need and the instinct of ‘more is better’. This keeps ‘life energies’ in check… except for humans. We discovered many ways to circumvent nature and finagle ways to get more than we need.
For example, we evolved an instinctive attraction to sweet and fatty food. ‘Natural discipline’ would limit us in the pursuit of this pleasure. Nature doesn’t grow French fries and cup cakes on trees. Nature forces us to hunt and gather to satisfy our craving for sweets and fats — a berry here, a termite there. Maybe some fresh carrion left over from a lion’s dinner. ‘Eden’ from a more Taoist perspective would be the time when we were one with nature’s wild side — fully connected. God didn’t expel humanity from Eden; we left Eden to pursue pleasure, comfort, and security!
Simply put, we didn’t evolve biologically to be civilized! Chapter 64’s, Taking this, the wise person desires non desire, attempts to compensate for the disconnect from nature that civilization causes. Actually, to be more precise, ‘tool use’ causes the disconnect. Without ‘tool use’, there would be no civilization. As tool use increases, civilization advances, and the gulf between natural need and ‘frivolous’ desire deepens. Need and fear — attraction and aversion — evolved to support survival in the wild, not in a profoundly innovative tool-using environment that our species has developed over recent millennia of civilized existence. As chapter 57 rightly points out,
The wider spread the taboos, the poorer the people.
The sharper their tools, the more a country’s confusion grows.
The more clever they are, the more strange things appear.
The more laws multiply, the more conspicuous the robbers.
Tool use has been, and is, the driving force behind civilization. Tools devised by our mind and made by our opposable-thumb hands weaken nature’s push back on need and fear. Tools enable us to grab and cleave onto more things than is necessary for survival; this permits us to avoid the uncomfortable wilder sides of nature we fear. This loss of ‘natural discipline’ — and the emotional imbalance that ensues — has made us unwittingly neurotic, with our lives driven by desire. Religion is our attempt to redress the woe this causes.
The dawn of the Electricity Age has upped the ante exponentially, easily comparable to the Agricultural Revolution of 10,000 years ago. Wow! Our species is in for quite a ride over the next millennia or so. It is time we climb down from our ‘sapiens’ pedestal and see ourselves as we are — a sharp witted ape, often a little too clever for its own good. With more humility as a species, we might hesitate long enough to honesty reconsider our priorities. Who knows, we might find a way to return to the inner peace for which we all yearn. Again, chapter 16…
Humility begins with knowing you’re ignorant
Life is a learning process, which means it takes a lifetime to learn from the ‘bottom up’ some degree of Right Comprehension, as well as the other ‘Rights’ on Buddha’s path. What is Right Comprehension if not being self-honest enough to acknowledge your ignorance?
However, most parents raise their children to conform to their culture’s social standards. Being on the same page culturally lends a large degree of security to everyone. This cultural indoctrination — brainwashing? — is essential for society since civilization can’t wait for individuals to learn from the ‘bottom up’, so to speak…
I recognize most everyone can appreciate, at least theoretically, the importance of culture’s ethical lessons at any age. Practically speaking, can one’s actions honestly mirror these ethical models? Core emotions play a large role in driving our life’s actions as we leap over the hurdles of life. In a very fundamental way, we wage a war of survival, both offensively and defensively — fight or flight. Note, offensive and defensive emotions correlate to the basic fight or flight responses of any animal, and need and fear power these responses… naturally!
The greatest obstacle to self-honesty is self-defensiveness — fear and flight — we bring to our life’s battles. We flee from perceptions that threaten the ego. With any luck, this gradually changes as we gain enough intuitive understanding — Right Comprehension — to temper emotional responses. It also helps greatly that life just wears down our emotional edge over time!
Of course, comprehension is an ongoing process, like maturing. So, each step taken into comprehension leads to the next deeper step in comprehension.
Mastering Buddha’s Path
This may sound a little heretical, but we can’t pursue and master the steps on Buddha’s path effectively and successfully. Trying to ‘do’ them is as silly as trying to be honest or trying to fall asleep. I am or I’m not honest… I do or I don’t fall asleep. Chapter 3 offers a Taoist clue for what to ‘do’, Doing without doing, following without exception rules. That feels paradoxical on the surface. As chapter 78 says, Straight and honest words seem inside out or as D.C. Lau translates this, Straightforward words seem paradoxical.
The more I try, the further away I get. In a way, I lose what I hang on to; I hang on to what I’ve lost. Jesus alluded to this dilemma with his ‘inside out’ comment, “Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it.”
In trying to do these steps, I only end up being a phony. I am who I am. Pretending to be otherwise, even disciplining myself to be otherwise, is living a fantasy. As my Right Comprehension broadens and deepens, I cannot help but feel — intuitively know — the next step I ‘need’ to take. Words fail to convey how simple this is. It is profoundly easy and natural because your survival instinct won’t let you do otherwise. Our imagination, ideals, and expectations complicate it and make it feel difficult. We try to bite off more than we can chew, and we want to have our cake and eat it too. You might say, we desire more than we’ve earned.
To regard the Eight Fold Path as a set of commandments like the Ten Commandments in Judeo Christianity only results in hypocrisy. Instead, think of these Eight as milestones to notice as we pass by them on our life’s journey — not as ‘shoulds’ to do. We can relax. It is out of our hands! As Right Comprehension accumulates over one’s lifetime, the other ‘Rights’ on Buddha’s path happen naturally. No choice, free will, or even responsibility is required!
Wéi wú wéi, ‘Doing without doing’
One caveat… this probably only makes sense to those ‘old souls’, exhausted by their ‘shoulds’, and ready to, as D.C. Lau translated it, One does less and less until one does nothing at all, and when one does nothing at all there is nothing that is undone. Or to put chapter 48 a little more literally,
Granted, this is far outside the common view of life. I should explain, by way of example, how not pursuing the Eight Fold Path ends as ‘without doing, yet not undone’. Consider, the difference between your revulsion at the genocide of ethnic minorities, and your delight, or at least positive emotion, at the genocide of the smallpox virus. As you are able to understand how this simply mirrors your own self interest, true compassion deepens. You are less apt to stomp on that bug that’s bothering you (Right Action). You’re less apt to rail against that politician you previously reviled (Right Speech). You’re more likely to feel deeper appreciation for that fish or tomato you’re eating (Right State of Peaceful Mind). You’re more apt to seek out and neutralize your own hypocritical self-serving biases (Right Effort, Right Thought). This, in turn, leads to deeper self-realization, self-honesty (Right Comprehension).
Can you see how this following your true-self approach to life works? It all takes care of itself. You could say that your only task is to be tentative and hesitant enough to peek around your belief’s certainty. As chapter 71 warns, Realizing I don’t’ know is better; not knowing this knowing is disease. Indeed, I see this disease as the largest impediment facing us.
To discipline yourself to play the role of a vegetarian, for example, in order to be a ‘good’ person easily leads to self righteous hypocrisy. That’s not ‘bad’ mind you! It’s what you feel you need to do. The point here is to identify what is occurring as simply and honestly as possible. As Right Comprehension penetrates, it becomes easier to be sincere. As Jesus said, “Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye”. From a Taoist point of view, Doing without doing, following without exception rules, is the shortest distance between where you are now and where you want to be.
Who is choosing, if ‘I’ is an illusion?
If you wish to deepen self-understanding, try this challenge. Carefully watch yourself in the moment to observe the origin of your actions and non-actions. Can you see whether your actions are driven by free-will, free-choice, or by need and fear?
There are two obstacles in this otherwise simple challenge. First, how you watch and ponder is important. Awareness has a dual nature, which might be described as ‘watching something’ and ‘watching nothing’. The ‘something’ side happens when life grabs our attention. The ‘nothing’ side happens when we give attention to life. This challenge requires more of the ‘nothing’ side of awareness. Another, somewhat larger obstacle is your belief in free will. Every time you believe you are choosing via free will, ask yourself, “What underlying fear or need do I feel at the moment?” Are you not simply defining this feeling of fear or need as free will? Note: Most of the time this will be a very subtle observation. Now, be diligent and honest! Poof! Where is the ‘I am choosing’ now?
We are predisposed to interpret our experiences to correspond with our preconceptions. If you believe ‘you’ are in control, that is what you will think you see. We see things the way we need to see them, which makes it awfully difficult to see them any other way. Need and fear call the shots, right down to observing these emotions. It is a closed system. For example, take giving advice to someone — especially unsolicited advice. “You should ______(fill in the blank)”. What you are really saying is this, “All you need to do is feel the same need or fear that I feel I need you to feel”. This projection of need and fear makes it impossible to see the forest of need and fear in which we are lost. Finally, this ‘should’ syndrome plays out even more so internally. “I should ________(fill in the blank)”.
It is in this subjective battleground — who ‘I’ am vs. who ‘I’ desire to be — where the distinction between desire and need manifests itself fully. The mind ‘sees’ an ideal, and the emotions feel a corresponding ‘need’, which is either ‘seconded’ or ‘outvoted’ by the more dominant primal need — real need vs. ideal ‘desire’. Note: The dynamics are more indistinct and shadowy than I’ve described here, what with the multiple lines of feedback between the mind’s thoughts and the emotion’s feelings. Nevertheless, I hope you get the drift… and good luck on the challenge!
The King: Our Social Instinct
I suppose the plea, ‘don’t be an animal’ speaks to the power of primal needs over ideated desires (ideated: to form an idea, thought, or image of). This absurd plea ‘don’t be an animal’ is symptomatic of our struggle to make civilization work.
In fact, I assume that the universal belief in free will, explicit or implied, serves an important social, hierarchical purpose. Our notion of ‘choice’ endorses social ranking — a crucial element in politics. Just imagine, if everyone acknowledged that all action simply mirrors the innate animal emotions of need and fear, we’d have no rational justification for judging others as either superior or inferior to ourselves. Believing that people have free will allows us to more easily “behold the mote in our brother’s eye, yet consider not the beam that is in our own eye”, as Jesus put it. If you carefully watch for this social dynamic at work in yourself and others, you’ll be surprised… and humbled!
All this begs the question; do I personally need to believe that I don’t have free will, and that I am not in control? No, I simply need to know what’s what; let the chips fall where they may. I didn’t choose to be the way I am — genetics and circumstances account for most of that; at least the part that ‘can be named’. Twenty years ago, I started to seriously wonder about free will. I began looking for some solid evidence — any proof would do. I could not — and still can’t — find any. Thus, over the years I gradually lost the ‘blind faith belief’ in free will that I had from childhood. Every situation I have examined, I can explain simply by what I call the balance of need and fear principle.
The balance of needs and fear principle
The dominant need or fear I feel at this very moment — now! — tips the scale; overrides other needs and fears, and determines what I will do now! This principle applies not only to our species, but also to all life on earth, and in fact, to all existence. Am I right? Can I prove it? Who cares! Seeing life this way naturally induces a more compassionate sense of connection with ‘everything’! That feels better than any alternative.
Why do we need free will?
Why is a belief in free will, explicit or implied, so universal? I assume that we instinctively fear feeling we’re not in control. We need to feel strong, separate, and special as individuals and as members of our ‘elite’ group — a hierarchical ‘me & we’. This is the ‘me & we’ that makes up a church, a nation, a company, a race, a sport, a political party… you name it.
In fact, I see this hierarchical ‘me & we’ as the biological cornerstone of the other two… the belief in free will and the illusion of self (ego). They are mutually supportive, with each expressing itself in the other. It is ironic that the two things we hold so dear — our illusion of self and free will — are the source of our suffering. Civilization’s hierarchical dynamic suppresses the more sociable egalitarian ‘we’ enjoyed by our hunter-gatherer ancestors. This brings us back around to the Third Noble Truth:
The Third Noble Truth is the cessation of suffering. He who extinguishes self will be free from lust. He no longer craves and the flames of desire find no material to feed upon, thus they are extinguished.
What Do I Do Without Free Will?
Nothing changes by dropping the belief in free will. For example, I knew long ago that a ‘stitch in time saves nine’, just as I do now. I did the best I could when I believed I had free will, just as I do now. Chapter 64 offers me the heads up I need.
This is what drives me to live life carefully. Of course, when I ‘ignore’ this, I stumble and fall. I did that when I believed I had free choice, and I still do now when I don’t. I have no more or less control over my life now than I did then. I do live a wiser life now; I’m simply older (and wiser). It is not our ‘free will’ that chooses what we do, it is need and awareness — instinctive knowing — that ‘chooses’. For example, I need to survive. If I know a ‘speeding bus’ is headed toward me, I will ‘choose’ to step out of the way as would any creature that likewise needs to survive and realizes the danger. It I truly know that driving fast or drunk is dangerous, I’ll avoid doing either — naturally!
So, is it all the same then? No! No! No! For one thing, I realize that there is danger inherent in all belief i.e., it is impossible to see a ‘speeding bus’ behind belief. Here, by losing faith in my belief in free will, I am no longer at war with others and myself. I no longer think I (or you) ‘should’ or could be other than I am (or you are). This ‘weakness’ that losing my ‘free will powered self’ incurs gives me a more effective way to live. For example, I smoked tobacco during all the years I believed in free will. I invoked my free will a dozen times over those years ‘choosing’ not to smoke — and I would succeed for a while. After realizing I had no free will, I gave up struggling over it, and just accepted that I would quit struggling to quit. Interestingly, a few years later, I needed to not smoke more than I needed to smoke, and have felt no desire to smoke for the last 25 years.
Not surprisingly, I gained 30 pounds. I lugged that around until about 10 years ago, when I needed to feel lighter than I needed to pleasure myself with delicious foods. Now, I’m no longer overweight. It really is just that simple. In the end, ‘choice’ simply comes down to the balance of need and fear principle, with need or fear winning over ‘should’ every time. Why complicate Nature by pretending that will and choice are ‘free’?
There is a bonus too! Surrendering this ‘battle of wills’ helps me feel more at peace with my self. This inner peace diminishes my need to … you name it. Thus, it appears that the needs we feel (like my smoking and overeating) often reflect our inner conflict. The illusion is that if we just satiate our current pressing need, we will be at peace. In truth, contentment comes first. When we are content, our needs subside, or rather those desires that go beyond primal needs subside; chapter 33 puts it well, Being content is wealth.
I am more at peace now, and ironically, with that peace I’m becoming a little more like who I always wanted to be. But, don’t take my word for it. If you have read this far you are probably reflective enough to verify all this through poking deeply into your own experience.