Having tried to live on diet foods – light versions of dairy products, sweet sensations without calories, and air-filled versions of breads – I can testify that such foods do not satisfy. Instead of eliminating hunger, these diet foods seem to fuel it. While I can eat a greater volume of diet foods, pursuing delightful tastes without the heavy consequences, the satisfaction, in my experience, is far less. In divorcing a taste from its corresponding nutritional value, I am trying to experience a good without its natural consequences and am not fulfilling the need that made me hungry in the first place.
This is the same with other goods. In our times, people pursue intercourse without the possibility of children or the lifelong ties of relationship, standards of living built on credit, and Sparknotes® versions of books or a Dummies® treatment of topics. We substitute in lesser goods or avoid bearing the whole weight of the good itself. In pursuing the taste of something while avoiding its costs, we lose the contentment that comes from experiencing the whole goodness of that thing – the good in its natural order, how it was intended to be received.
Conversely, if I accept the responsibilities of marriage and motherhood, I find myself made rich in relationship – the essence of humanity and eternity. If I accept the hard work necessary to earn an income, I receive satisfaction from the result of my labor and appreciate what I buy all the more. If I spend the time to read and understand a book, I experience the richness of linguistic nuances, plots and subplots, foreshadowing and character development, and so much more. In receiving a good and the time, effort, and consequences inherently part of that good, I experience its fullness.
I can attempt to consume a good on my own terms, immediately gratifying desires. Yet rather than fulfilling my needs, I only appease them. Alternatively, I can cultivate delight in something on itsterms. This means smaller portions, marriage and kids, fewer books read, and no jack-of-all trades label for me. Yet when I accept goods for what they are, my needs are satisfied. Life is full, and I give thanks.