O not as in the Story of O, but as in zero, nought, nothing, the absence of... We spend so much time in the pursuit of things both material and spiritual that we rarely stop to think about celebrating that which we do not have.
Let's make it up close and personal. My typical private and selfish wish list includes: health and happiness for me and my loved ones (and everyone who reads this blog), a good acting break so I can be famous, a cure for cancer, a daily reprieve from my demons, and please can I win the lottery just this once and please can we make it a record breaking jackpot.
What does this say about me? (Aside from the obvious... hey, no sniggering at the back!) I want STUFF. Some of it is worthy and altruistic, some of it is incredibly selfish and shallow, some of it is material, some of it is spiritual, some of it I would probably regret ever asking for. What they all have in common is the Oliver Syndrome: (don't bother looking it up on Wikipedia, I just made it up.) "Please sir, can I have some more sir?"
In all fairness, I think it's possibly hardwired in us. Let's face it, evolutionary wise it wasn't so long ago that we came down from the trees and started walking upright across the Rift Valley (I've been watching National Geographic). Back then we really did need stuff, like fire and sticks and rocks to fight off sabre tooth tigers and catch mastodonts to feed our families and keep warm in our caves. Now of course, some of us are lucky enough to have moved on from subsistance to extraneous consumption. I ask you, who in their right mind is gonna ask for a bowl of lumpy porridge when then can have caviar? (Or an i-phone if you prefer.)
But is our pursuit of happiness a dead end disguised as the yellow brick road paved with gold? The problem with asking for "stuff" is that even when you get it, after a while it's gone. So rather than asking for more should we instead be asking for less, or even better, not asking for anything and actually just being happy and grateful not to have something... like pain, or the town flooded, or the house burnt down, or a broken leg, or noisy neighbours?
Should I replace my wish list with a gratitude list so I can be thankful for what I have and grateful for what I don't have?
As the secret of happiness, it sounds promising but hard work. Like wearing a spiritual hairshirt. And any way, how I do I know what I'm supposed to be grateful for not having? Chicken pox? An ingrown toe nail? Dry rot (not me, the house)?
Let's just for a minute imagine that I could think of all those things. Now let's imagine that I could write them all out as a list... it would go on for miles!
Hey, maybe that's the point.
Maybe I don't need to write it all out, just a few examples to get into the spirit of things and then just visualise a ream of paper long enough to wrap around the earth and then to the moon and back. Then I could sit back and think: I am grateful for all of this, and more!
And if that doesn't put a spring in my step, I can always go and buy another lotto ticket.