23 May 2013

Wanting More

This past weekend, I took a trip to Las Vegas with some of my friends.  The little two day trip was fun, and it gave me a lot to think about and I thought I'd write about it over the course of the next couple of weeks.  This week I'm writing about about that need to want “more”.   I’m not a big Vegas person, but there are a few things that I enjoy there:  people watching (Vegas is the place to do it!), relaxing, and playing penny slots.  Slot machines have come a long way since the put-the-coin-in-pull-the-lever-hope-for-lucky-sevens type.  Now they are more like video games.  And a penny is hardly what you play on a penny slot.  You bet a penny a line with some machines having up to 100 lines.   And then you can multiply your bet 2x, 3x, whatever.  But I do like them because you can play for quite a while, winning and losing, and if I’m lucky, I’ll come out a few dollars ahead (which doesn’t happen very often).  In fact, most of the time, I lose what I started with, always thinking that if I put in just one more play, surely, I'd hit the jackpot...or get the free spins.  And this Saturday night, when I was digging through my purse for just one more dollar to feed into the machine, my behavior made me stop (after yet another losing pull) and think about human behavior and how we are wired.  Or if it's really wiring at all, or is it learned behavior?  What I'm talking about is this need to want more.  

Vegas makes its millions by this very thing, right?  The need to keep gambling.  The hope that “just one more bet” is going to be the winner.  I’m wondering if this is part of our hardwiring – a type of survival mechanism from our early days.  The need for self-preservation maybe?  The thinking that if  I won a little bit, that’s great.  But if I can win a little more, that’s even better.  It’s like that little girl on the AT&T commercial, “We want more! We want more!”

Is it greed?  I'm not too sure about that.  I think it's more about gratification. But the truth is that I'm still thinking about it.  I thought I'd have the answer, but I don't. 

Our monthly In His Shoes Skid Row outreach was this past Monday evening - the day after I returned from my trip.  What a huge contrast between the glamour and glitz of Las Vegas, and the poverty and homelessness on the streets of Skid Row.  What I was wondering is this:  Are we hardwired to want more for ourselves?  Or is this need something that is learned in our fast-paced, material world?   As I sat at the slots, putting in that last dollar, I thought about this: What if this same need to want more for ourselves didn't just stop with ourselves?  What if we had a need to want  more for others?  On our homeless outreach, we had prepared to feed about 170 people.  Sadly there were so many people living on the streets that we ran out of everything -- sandwiches, snackes, everything.  What if we couldn’t stop at helping just 170 people a month but we felt the need to help “just one more” person.  And now thinking about this on a more global level, I'm reminded of those tribes in Africa and elsehwere  where people truly live as a community, all helping one another and working toward the common survival of themselves and their community. When one person eats, everyone eats.  When one person struggles, they all struggle.  I think it's more of a nature vs. nurture issue.  

When I think about our homeless outreach group, I KNOW our main reason for doing this outreach is because we have been commanded by God to do so…to feed the hungry and clothe the naked.  But I also know that there is a lot of gratification in it for each of us when we spread Christ’s light and love to others. And I do think that for us that that gratification is enough to keep us coming back for more.     And so now the question is: Has God created each of us as compassionate, giving human beings...and then do we learn to want more for ourselves for survival in society?   I think this is more likely.   At least I would like to think so. 

Finally, I'll leave you with a little food for thought. Just this morning, I read Pope Francis' address and it tied in to this beautiful idea of community and compassion.  He said, 

"The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood of Christ: all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone! ‘Father, the atheists?’ Even the atheists. Everyone! And this Blood makes us children of God of the first class! We are created children in the likeness of God and the Blood of Christ has redeemed us all! And we all have a duty to do good. And this commandment for everyone to do good, I think, is a beautiful path towards peace. If we, each doing our own part, if we do good to others, if we meet there, doing good, and we go slowly, gently, little by little, we will make this a culture of encounter: we need that so much. We must meet one another doing good. ‘But I don’t believe, Father, I am an atheist!’ But do good: we will meet one another there.”

“Doing good” the Pope explained, is not a matter of faith: “It is a duty, it is an identity card that our Father has given to all of us, because He has made us in His image and likeness. And He does good, always.”

Like I said, I don't have all the answers on this one, but it's "ripe with possibilities!"  What do you think?  I would love to hear your thoughts.  Please comment on my blog below and let me know what  you think.

You can hear the audio version of this post read on this week's episode of "The Next Step with Father Vazken" on epostle.net

1 comment:

Suzie Shatarevyan said...

This post is truly "ripe with possibilities"! It really makes you think a lot - the reasons why we do the things we do. To a certain degree, there is that sense of satisfaction. Feeling good is truly a good feeling, so why not try to experience that over and over again? Think about all the chemicals released in your brain when you hug a person. It feels good. It's not an accident that this is part of our design. We're commanded to do good. But it doesn't stop there. We're rewarded for doing the right thing. God has not only commanded us, but also given us everything we need to carry out His commandment.