One of my favorite stories comes from the Sufi tradition of mystical Islam. It is a tale that tells us exactly what we will have to face if we endeavor to walk the path of desire.
A man sits in the center of a Middle Eastern marketplace crying his eyes out, a platter of peppers spilled out on the ground before him.
Certainly, Nasruddin is modeling our lives for us: Struggling against the tide of disappointment, we continue to search for a sweet one. As his friends must be wondering as they gaze at him incredulously, would it not be better just to give up?
In this version of the story, Nasruddin is rendering a conventional spiritual teaching. Our desires bind us to the wheel of suffering. Even though we know that they bring us pain, we cannot convince ourselves to relinquish our grip. As Freud liked to say, there is an “unbridgeable gap”1 between desire and satisfaction, a gap that is responsible for both our civilization and our discontent.
From ‘Open to Desire: The Truth About What the Buddha Taught’