But then there are the lesser known ones, such as those I heard repeatedly while growing up among African American elders. One of them has not only made its way into the popular lexicon and culture, but it can be traced back to some of the oldest of black spirituals, and what they once called “Negro slang.”
That idiom is: “I don’t want for nothing.”
Isn’t it remarkable how such profound wisdom can be expressed using so few words, and from people who never learned to read or write? From people whose ancestors were once enslaved?
I do marvel at the wisdom of the elders, those who were violently denied literacy and formal education. In spite of their trials and the deep suffering they had to endure, they didn’t worry and complain. They said: “I don’t want for nothing.”
Let’s pause here briefly to examine what it means to not want for nothing. I’m sure if you’re like most people in America, where we are taught and conditioned to want, it can be nearly impossible to imagine living without desire.
And do you know why?
It’s because we are programmed for attachment.
Aha! Attachment! The twin of desire, its binary. That emotion that causes suffering. Attachment to what we want, attachment to outcomes, fear, to sorrow, to the past, to the future, to the present. Wherever there is attachment, there is desire, and wherever there is desire, there can be no peace. Where there is no peace, there is suffering.
Allow me to break this down a little better. I’ll start by asking you to think about what occupies your thoughts on a daily basis. What do your daily thoughts consist of? Usually a combination of wishes, desires, anxieties, fears, and complaints. All of them rooted in attachment.
Now, imagine being in a mental place where you could affirm that you don’t want for nothing. Not because you have attained all that you imagined that you wished for, or because you have satisfied all of your desires, or erased all your past pain, or because you’re fearless in the face of uncertainty. But because you simply looked at desire and said to it: “You don’t own me. You don’t define me. You are not the master of my life, soul, or being. I don’t want for nothing, I said. I am complete. There is no void.”
Imagine the mental and emotional freedom and power that would come from simply giving up the desire/attachment binary, by stepping out of it.
Then what? What would you do with your freedom to be at peace?
Today I encourage you to choose freedom over suffering. I encourage you to choose detachment; to free yourself from desire and to let life be, just as it is, on its own terms.
Let yourself be, just as you were created, whole and complete.
May all be well with your soul and every blessing come to you on your journey.