What Do We Crave?
If we were honest most of us would say that we have asked the question, “Isn’t there anything more than this?” Our contexts may be different but the question lingers. For some it may be a question that comes from looking at a hurting world and realizing that their lives have been self-absorbed. For others it is a question born of pain and confusion, hoping that what they are experiencing isn’t reality; there is a hope and that something better just around the corner
The question isn’t a bad; it’s honest, introspective, and full of meaning. Our personal circumstances and what we see in the world beg the question. From the lonely depression of a young girl to the great holocausts that have been perpetrated on oppressed people the cry for something more fall from their lips if not from the deep prayers of their hearts. “Choose for yourself [God] another chosen people”(Movie Defiance). The persecution of the Jews during World War II drove them to ask the question and crave something more.
However, it isn’t just pain that causes people to crave something more. Many people become disillusioned because what they have been pursuing doesn’t truly satisfy the deep longings of their hearts. In fact they have sought to fill this craving with filler and false promises. Money and power are intoxicating but once achieved do not satisfy. We trade addictions for addictions. We look askance at the bum in the alley because he drowns his emptiness in a bottle or needle, but then applaud the work alcoholic who achieves fame and fortune. They are both addicted and they are both trying to fill a hunger deep within that doesn’t want to be satisfied.
So what is the question? The writer of Ecclesiastes states it this way, “Vanity of vanities,’ says the preacher, ‘Futility of futilities! All is futile. What advantage does man have in all his work, which he does under the sun? A generation goes and a generation comes, but the earth remains forever” (Ecclesiastes 1:2,3 NASB).
It makes me think of my infestation. It seems as if the ants in my community have no better place to go than in my house; my kitchen; my bathroom; my food; and yes even in my bed. They are everywhere. Yet, with all the angst I have had in trying to get rid of them I have had the opportunity to observe them. They are persistent at whatever they are about even if what they are doing isn’t very obvious. They move with purpose and they do it together. I was contemplating this as I sat waiting in the mall. As I observed the people moving about I realized that their movement, their sense of purpose, and their persistence weren’t much different than the ants. As I sat there watching I found myself becoming as detached from the world of shoppers as I did from the world of ants and wondered if there was any purpose and meaning to all the activity. Detach yourself enough and it becomes surreal and isolated and the deep questions of life, purpose, and meaning can be overwhelming. These people were no different than me. They get up and eat. They brush their teeth and get dressed. They fight the traffic to work and then do stuff for the day and then fight the traffic home. They fix some food, talk to some friends, watch some television and eventually go to bed, and for what, to get up the next day and do it all over again? It seems so meaningless.
Yet, deep down something drives us to keep going. Survival is a strong motivator for continuing on in life. Abraham Maslow developed his hierarchy of needs in 1954. He stated that there are five basic needs that man has and for man to achieve the greatest of those needs (Peak Experience) he has to start at the bottom meeting basic survival needs. Survival by itself doesn’t explain the drive to achieve the higher order of need. There is something deep inside the human condition that drives us to keep going in life, and when we don’t feel these needs are being met we become depressed, lonely, or we begin to fill it with something else. There is something that we crave so much that we will do anything to fill it, even if it is filled with counterfeits. Of course the counterfeits only temporarily satisfy and we are left even emptier.
So what is it that we crave so much? There are actually three things that we crave. Everyone craves relationships, significance, and a spiritual experience. From the time of our birth our lives begin to revolve around these cravings. Even in the absence of the basic needs of life we crave these three things. I think of Tom Hanks in the movie “Castaway.” Shipwrecked on an island with no human interaction the character developed a relationship with Wilson, a volley ball. It was a movie that explored the human psyche in the absence of one of man’s greatest needs – relationships.
Hanging out with friends and family is great but by itself will leave us empty inside. We have a deep need to live significant lives. Why does our heart ache for the poor hungry child we see on television? Why do we reach into our pockets and pull out a quarter for the homeless person on the corner? Why do we write a check to our favorite charity? We do it because it makes us feel that we are a part of something that helps others; to make the world a better place. Of course it is easier to give money than it is to give our time, but either way it is to satisfy a deep craving in our lives – to be significant.
Finally, we all crave a spiritual experience. Every culture recognizes in some way this deep craving. It is expressed in different forms; the practices are varied; and the doctrines endless, but in the end the desire to seek answers to our existence leads us outside of ourselves to something greater. Even in the midst of our technological culture where there are those who would have us believe that the spiritual side of life is a myth there is a growing desire of people to experience the mystic. This comes from a deep craving of something more than what this life has to offer.