“Whatever suffering arises, all that arises rooted in desire, with desire as its source; for desire is the root of suffering.” Samyutta Nikaya 42:11
On Friday a young man was trampled to death because he stood in front of a crowd of people rushing into a store at 5 in the morning in search of bargains. An article on the event in the New York Times contained the observation:
“It was a tragedy, yet it did not feel like an accident. All those people were there, lined up in the cold and darkness, because of sophisticated marketing forces that have produced this day now called Black Friday. They were engaging in early-morning shopping as contact sport. American business has long excelled at creating a sense of shortage amid abundance, an anxiety that one must act now or miss out.”
Of course, the question is — Miss out on what?
We’d all like to think of ourselves as being above this kind of mindless conduct. I can only speak for myself and I must admit I am as much a prisoner of desire as anyone else. I would love to blame my character on greedy corporations or some other nefarious outside source, but I am the only one responsible for who I am. It is me who keeps making the same mistake, over and over again, thinking satisfaction will flow from the fulfillment of desire when all that happens is the creation of yet more desire and more dissatisfaction.
The Dalai Lama said:
“We have become long on quantity but short on quality. These are times of fast foods but slow digestion; tall man but short character; steep profits but shallow relationships. It’s a time when there is much in the window, but little in the room.”