Ulterior motives are funny.


One’s ulterior motives can be wholly different from anything one would expect, and can make one do funny things — that one likewise would never expect.  At least, things that have nothing to do with one’s real needs.

Decades ago, my brother Francis, the dentist, knowing that my prescription medicines include SSRIs, asked whether I grit my teeth at night; for it’s common for such patients to do that.

I don’t grit my teeth, but I do take special joy in crunchy foods.  This has been on my mind, as this hankering has been prominent in recent months.  On occasions when I got turned away from the shelter, I would buy lots and lots of potato chips to include in supper, since they’re crunchy.  Also, potatoes are high in tryptophan, a precursor of serotonin; so that potatoes are, in fact, a mood-enhancing food.

Tuesday, November 21, 14:30 rolled around, and it became time for me to leave church to return to the shelter.  I found myself instead going from one needless activity to the next, seeking any old thing to do to avoid leaving for the shelter.  Eventually it came to me to ask myself what this was all about.

It was laughable.

I was seeking to engineer that by the time I’d get to the shelter, there’d be no bunks left; so I would get turned away, and could have potato chips for supper.

The two strongest ulterior motives I know of are (1) the desire to be certain and (2) the desire to avoid what M. Scott Peck called “legitimate suffering,” that suffering which comes from life’s inherent, inevitable difficulties.  He indicated that all behavioral dysfunction rises from the desire to avoid legitimate suffering.

In the future, I may believe that the two are actually one and the same.  At this writing, I’m not certain about that.  I am certain that both desires lead to vast amounts of what I have begun to call “ersatz suffering” — suffering that comes from refusal to accept life’s inherent, inevitable difficulties.

The overwhelming majority of suffering in this world — almost all, IMO — is ersatz.  Needless.  Thus the need for The Way of Peace.

Uncertainty is uncomfortable.  People normally respond to it by seeking something about which to feel certain.  It doesn’t need to have anything to do with the actual issues at hand.  It just needs to provide the ability to presume to be certain of something.

An ideology, for example.  Any ideology, for example.  And people prove willing to accept amazing amounts of discomfort or difficulty for the sake of clinging to an ideology, a proposition about which one can presume to be certain.

Missionaries of Christian — or Marxist — fundamentalism will willingly live in a jungle wilderness, in deprivation and poverty and harsh conditions for years, for the sake of sharing their doctrines with those who already live there.  Greenpeace activists will do things like spending months at sea in the near-Arctic playing chicken with Japanese whaling vessels, or climbing 50 feet out on the boom of a 200-foot crane to hang a banner.

Ulterior motives.  They’re funny.  They make you do funny, strange, frightening things.  That’s what they’re all about.

 

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