What do you really want? Do you know? In his novel, Fight Club, Chuck Palahniuk writes “If you don’t know what you want, you end up with a lot you don’t.” If you don’t want much, you’re lucky. I was born wanting. Wanting more love, greater knowledge, higher goals, bounteous adventure, deeper insight, new stories, better words and a killer wardrobe. You get the picture. Am I selfish? Maybe but those desires consistently drive me forward like turning wheels I can’t stop. Unfortunately, they’ve driven me off a few cliffs over the years.
Some of us look outside the window and see a huge magical world, a cornucopia of experiences, full of color and sparkling life while others look out and see the backyard. They focus on the fresh grass that needs cutting and the weeds that need pulling. Both want to make our world more acceptable but the process differs. It’s not about detail versus big picture. In fact, I’m a bit tired of hearing about the forest and the trees. It’s about what calls to us, what has the power to move us forward, to make us act. After all, it’s about what incites labor and brings change.
I recently read Alan Greenspan’s book, The Age of Turbulence. In his years as the Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, he not only recognized the tall grass and pesky weeds but also saw their place in our economic cornucopia. Economies grow and prosper as their inhabitants learn to specialize and engage in the division of labor. Greenspan knew the horn was filled with all the eclectic desires that drive individuals forward whether it’s the grass in their yard or some far off hazy dream. Both are needed to create a healthy economic landscape. So why do folks like me get slammed for having our head in the clouds? As a boy during the depression, Greenspan looked out his window and saw hundreds of railroad routes ready to carry him away from the life his single mother worked so hard to provide. He never told her; he knew she wouldn’t understand. But according to Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Clinton, and two Bushes, he wasn’t such a bad boy.
I recently had a bizarre dream that I took off my skin and laid it out on the floor like a rug. As I studied it, I saw that it needed a good shave. I wanted it to be perfect, smooth and glowing. It was a dream within a dream. What a great method, I thought. So I grabbed a straight razor and got to work. It was easy at first. Then I hit some rough patches, filled with clumps of thick hair. The razor just didn’t seem sharp enough. So I used some muscle, keeping my eye on the vision while I cut away at the details. I worked on a particularly large dense chunk for some time, not considering the mess I was making. I lost myself in the music pumping through my dream, a fantastical mix of Tchaikovsky and Finger Eleven. When I finally sat back and looked at what I’d accomplished I realized the nasty, difficult patch I worked so hard to get rid of was the hair on my head. Oops! I woke up realizing that in trying so hard to create what I’d envisioned, I sacrificed something I needed and wanted.
So what does the hair on my head have to do with what I want and Alan Greenspan? Based on our ability to labor over and create what it is we each want, people like Greenspan mold the future your grass and my dreams grow on. Perhaps our challenge is to appreciate what we each contribute to the cornucopia. Me and my kind may have our collective head in the clouds but struggling to keep our feet too firmly on the ground will muddy your yard and push us to cut away some of the very things we need to be successful. We need the grass cutters in our lives. We don’t want to live in a world full of weeds; our view would be blocked. It’s a symbiotic relationship with deep reaching tendrils.
Let’s not get caught misunderstanding the trees and forests. If we put forth the effort we can all see the yard, the trees, the forests and the blaring horn calling us to action. We all want for something. We all have needs. Let me pursue mine and I’ll help you cut the grass. It makes for a benignant economy. That’s what I want, Mr. Greenspan.