"You Can't Always Get What You Want"

By Will Baker

I have this friend that I was corresponding with last week. It felt good to be in contact again-- I used to see a lot of her. As a matter of fact, for a period of time we were present in each other’s lives. But then, as she puts it, "due to (life’s) circumstances," it was necessary for that to change. And during the time that we were interacting on a regular basis, she was an amazing help and comfort. I like to think that we complimented each other in ways that made the two of us equal to more than the sum of our parts…true synergy if you will. Yet, that arrangement changed, and now I am left with fond memories, "warm hugs" and goodwill towards my friend.

Sometimes I visualize life as a river: We can step into the current on two separate occasions in exactly the same place, but it will indeed be a quite different experience both times around-different water molecules, water temperature, weather and wildlife, demonstrating truly that, nothing remains the same. I believe that life is all about growth and constant change. But then there are folks that feel like William Shakespeare, who eloquently summarized the Existential Nihilist perspective when, in this famous passage near the end of Macbeth, he has Macbeth pour out his disgust for life:

"Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more; it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing."

So, it seems to me that, at the very least, life is ever changing, but according to some, at the very worst it is meaningless. I told my above referenced friend, that, from my perspective, I guess that as it relates to her and I, the situation just might represent a case of "you can’t always get what you want." Yet she reminded me that the song’s next line goes: "but if you try some times, you just might find, you get what you need." Constant growth and change vs. meaninglessness. One’s "wants" might not always be satisfied, but ones "needs" sometimes may be. It seems to me that this represents a set of interesting yet confusing paradoxes. But gentle reader, what does this mean?

Well to add to this confusion, it seems to me that to some degree, we are all "lost." You see, if one believes, as I do that life is a journey, and the meaning of life is something that is different for each one of us, and as a result of this journey life’s meaning may be revealed, then the implication is that until this personal revelation occurs, as we travel on we really have no clear understanding of where it is that we are going. In other words, we are quite "out there."

Yes, this friend of mine and I know each other well. We have shared our hopes, dreams, fears, and even our deepest, darkest secrets with one another. And I trust her judgement. Therefore, when last we spoke, and she gave me some advice on this matter of being lost, I had to listen. You see, she implied that I was having difficulty with "finding" myself. She then gently provided some suggestions as to where, exactly, I might be "found." And as usual, her words were wise and helpful ones, and the fact that she offered the advice made me happy. She remains a help and comfort.

And in speaking with her, after time has passed and circumstances have changed, I thought of life’s river. I imagined that I was stepping once again into the running stream that is our relationship with one another. Yes, things have changed, just like in the metaphor that I spoke to above. But with all due respect to Bill Shakespeare, I have to reject the notion that life is meaningless. For surely there was meaning in my friend’s words and actions. And at that moment my interaction with her was a part of my life, therefore life must have at least that much meaning. Yes, she remains a help and a comfort and the contact with her made me happy. Hey, doesn’t every human being need those things…and warm hugs also?

And perhaps she is right when she said: "but if you try some times, you just might find, you get what you need."


 (Essay Collection)