What We Think We Want

Sometimes I find that a completely mediocre book can bring different parts of my life into focus. In the book The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P, a book just good enough for me to keep reading, there is an underlying theme that what we think we want is not necessarily the same as what we really want.

Love Affairs of Nathaniel P

I have found this to be the case in life as a whole, not simply restricted to finding a partner. I was reminded of it recently at services.

A few weeks ago I showed up to Torah study to discover it was a Scholar in Residence weekend. I almost left. What normally happens with these events is that the guest speaker is highly pretentious and has decided in advance that our group of regulars have nothing to contribute, yet they end up saying drivel that most of our participants could easily shoot down. It’s that first (and second and third) impression thing!

Just as I was turning to sneak out, someone saw me and called my name. Ugh! I was stuck. All the chairs around the expansive tables were already filled, so I joined the back row and opened my Torah, not looking forward to the next hour. I was not in the mood to try to change my mindset, but I was there. Why not try to find something enjoyable about the experience?

That next hour turned out to be one of the most intellectually stimulating and entertaining of my entire Torah study history! Not only was the guest lecturer knowledgeable and engaging, he also drew upon the collected wisdom of the room. We felt we were part of the discussion, not being talked at, even though he spoke a good 90% of the time. It really was a lecture, yet we all loved it!

Ironically, the last time I went Torah study shopping, the main reason I chose my current group was because it wasn’t a lecture format. Although I don’t often contribute, I love the constant lively exchange at my synagogue. Part of what I love about the Jewish faith is that there is nothing disrespectful about challenging a rabbi’s statement; it is actually encouraged!

The most memorable part of this wonderful morning was the rabbi quoting Abraham Heschel, a Biblical scholar, who famously said, “I do not view myself as a noun in search of an adjective.” I loved this not only for the grammar reference, but also for the message it told. I’m still at a crossroads for where I want my life to go. I currently am lacking an adjective to describe me. It was wonderful to hear that I am enough on my own without the qualifiers.

Have you ever been shown that what you thought you wanted was not really what you wanted? Does anyone else feel lost, like a noun in search of an adjective?

2 thoughts on “What We Think We Want”

  1. I think we’ve all had that feeling of wanting something only to finally see that we actually wouldn’t want it. It’s all a case of fantasy vs reality. How many girls did I want to date only to realize just how little I wanted to date them when I finally got a chance. Yeah, we’ve all been there, haven’t we? Oh well, that’s life.


    1. The dating world definitely gives us the best examples of fantasy versus reality. In The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P, he has an image of his perfect match being a highly intellectual woman. What actually makes him happy was someone beautiful and not even close to his intellectual equal.


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