I can remember wanting Fruity Pebbles for breakfast as a child. The Flintstone family, from the 60’s-era cartoon, were my frequent TV friends, and they loved Fruity Pebbles. So of course, I loved them too. On the rare occasion that my Mom bought them, I devoured bowl after bowl. As a kid, I never connected how yucky I felt an hour or two after eating sugary cereal. I just knew I wanted those tasty Pebbles, and that’s all that mattered.
Why did I want that cereal? Was it because it was good for me? Certainly not. (There is no fruit in Fruity Pebbles—it’s debatable whether it’s even food.) Would it give me the ability to meet my 7-year-old goals of being able to run faster or play longer? Not in my experience.
I think I wanted Pebbles for two reasons: my favorite TV characters loved them, and professionals intentionally engineered the ingredients to attract me. In fact, we now know the addictive properties of sugar makes us want more of something that is actually enslaving us.
Imagine an evil tyrant who wants to enslave people. What are the tyrant’s options for capturing and controlling his slaves? He could kidnap them by force and build a prison-like structure to contain them. He could add electronic surveillance and guards and razor wire and dogs. He could use pain and intimidation to force his would-be slaves to serve him.
That system can get the slave-master’s evil plan done, but it is a lot of work. Slaves would continually try to escape. They don’t want to be slaves.
What if, instead, the tyrant could find a way to make his intended slaves want to serve him willingly? If the master could find a way to change the desires of people so that they wanted to be his slaves, all of the work and expense and drama of the external force-based system would be unnecessary.
The input we receive primarily through media is increasingly like this ingenious tyrant. We desire many things, not because they are valuable, good, or helpful, but because our desires have been programmed by various external inputs to make us want things that can enslave us.
So, if some of what we want is not good for us, but is actually harmful, what should we do? The first thing is to recognize that our desires can be changed, for good or for evil. We are not stuck just following our desires—in fact, our desires are actually among the most changeable parts of who we are.
How many of us as adults enjoy activities that we didn’t like as a child? Our desires have been refined as we’ve matured. For example, as grown-ups we care about saving for the future, where as a child we would often spend all we had on toys. Tastes, priorities, and concerns all change over time.
Once I opened myself to the idea that unhealthy food was holding me back from everything I wanted to become, I was able to make gradual changes. Now, at 50 years old, I’m able to do more, think clearer, run faster, bike longer, and do many other things better than when I was younger. I don’t even desire things like Fruity Pebbles anymore.
Why do you want what you want? Why do you spend time doing what you do, watching what you watch, or buying what you buy? Are the desires that drive your decisions leading you to become the best version of yourself?
If not, are you willing to consider that your very desires may be enslaving you?
Desires for freedom can overcome desires that lead to slavery. We need to listen more to our desire for freedom, and seek the way to become free from desires that are taking us the other direction.
I’ve found a path to freedom that I will share in various ways over time. The path begins with an awakening to the reality that our desires may not be leading us where we really want to go. In fact, they may be leading us to slavery.
I’d love to hear your thoughts. Please comment and let me know how these ideas resonate with you.