More and more, we live in a world that promises, and tries to deliver, instant gratification and immediate satisfaction, guaranteed with an extended warrantee and with free delivery.
The more we get hooked on the false promise, indeed, the false life premise, that we can be fully satisfied in the short term, the more we set ourselves up for disappointment, disillusionment, and despair. The less able we become to finish what we start. The more we look for the easy way up and the easy way out (with our money back).
Easy, fun, fast, free, instant, new, and now—long the standard words of advertising and marketing—have been canonized as precepts in the popular gospel of personal enrichment, part of the long list of false guarantees, warranties, securities, assurances and insurances.
Gospel with Many Converts
Still, we find many converts to the gospel of instant gratification—of “I want mine here and now”—even among senior executives and elder statesmen who are paid to know better and do better. When an entire culture becomes converted, we find dubious, if not downright illegal, behavior at every turn. Want proof? Just read the newspapers.
Why is instant gratification so hard to resist? Because we battle the ever-present appetites and passions of the body; moreover, the world has invented and packaged a million tasty beverages and condiments at every corner. Every counter has some tempting candy or confection to offer, something to satisfy our appetites here and now—all neatly packaged and displayed right in front of us. And whether we take it in through our eyes or ears, mind or mouth, for a fleeting moment, it feels good, satisfies a need, or pacifies a greed.
Tragically, repeated “indiscretion” becomes addiction; a pattern of “indulgence” or “appeasement” becomes entrapment. What was meant to be only “instant” becomes constant.
Once instant gratification becomes part of our habit patterns—indeed, the defining characteristic of our lifestyles—we fall into deep ruts and commonplace routines that keep us confined to a very limited circle, pinned against the confining walls of a very narrow comfort zone, idling in an increasingly smaller circle of influence.
Sense or Nonsense?
Our physical senses, when overindulged, become non-sensory. As we seek gratification through taste, touch, smell, sight, hearing—as we seek the ultimate sensory experience—the less we are able to feel. We become desensitized, past feeling. We become more and more eccentric in our tastes, not only in what we choose to eat and drink, touch and taste, wear and not wear, show and tell, but also in what we choose to smell, see, and hear. We need exotic perfumes and scents; our eyes delight in the graphic and the pornographic. We enter the designer’s world where cut and shape and style are everything. We surround ourselves in sounds, in elaborate audio systems, in a constant stream of music, voice, rap, noise—anything but silence and honest reflection. The instant gratification of our appetites, emotions, and passions quickly extends into our buying habits. Instant credit funds it all.
The pattern of instant gratification doesn’t stop with bodily appetites. No, the pervasive pattern weaves its way into our academic or mental lives, as we become lazy learners and non-readers of anything substantive. Likewise, the pattern works its way into our financial or economic lives, as we look increasingly to make money in the market or on the industry of other people. It intrudes into our social and political lives as we begin to expect the significant others in our lives to take all the initiative and carry most of the real risk; and, of course, it shows up in our professional or work lives as we perform at the low end of our capability, believing it to be the high end, and wanting top dollar for our mediocre work.
From Deferred to Sure Gratification
Now, you might guess that the “solution” to the dilemma of instant gratification would be deferred gratification. But no, this just means instant gratification 24 hours later, since we allow our pent-up urges to overflow, creating an avalanche of appetite and passions. It’s famine, then feast; wait, then sate; go without, then glut. Not healthy.
A better, more excellent way is what I call sure gratification. The pathway to sure gratification, however, is often the road less traveled.
Einstein said that genius is responding to stimuli not present in the immediate environment—that is, deliberate action without the promise, without even the remote possibility, of immediate or near-term gratification . . . nothing sensory at all that would stimulate a response or prompt an action, let alone a sustained creative effort.
From whence comes, then, the motivation to pursue the path leading to sure gratification?
From an inner wisdom that goes beyond “please and appease” motives or financial, legal or social directives, from a wisdom that is born of Mother Nature and Father Time.
Mother Nature. The key question here is “What is consistent with natural laws, systems and processes?” While it may be Human Nature to seek a shortcut through Mother Nature, nature rarely rewards such expedient behavior. What is unnatural is often sinister, having negative side effects and bad aftertastes. And yet we see on the shelves of our beauty and body stores the likes of implants, abortion, cosmetic surgery, liposuction, liquid diets, addictive drugs, fashion, fads and pads—a virtual Viagra Falls of potions, lotions, substitutes and stimulants.
Father Time. The question here is “How well does it play over time?” Usually what plays well over time is elegant in its simplicity, multi-functional, classic, timeless. It wears well, plays well, works well. Time always ticks in favor of those people who are “in it for the long run” and produce items that are “built to last.”
Yes, I know the pushback line: Why wait when you can have it all now? Well, I suppose that now may be how we bilk a certain ilk or milk a cow, but now is not how we get silk from a sow or sustain a wow. And, what appears to be today’s “all”, give our mortal short-sightedness, may turn out to be but a small fraction of the eventual “all” awaiting us when 20/20 vision extends far beyond the year 2020 into endless eternity.