Desire and Nasruddin’s Key

Desire and Nasruddin’s Key

Dennis Bradford

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Don’t we all have some Nasruddin in us?

Here’s another brief story about him:

One night some of Nasruddin’s friends came upon him crawling around on his hands and knees searching for something beneath a lamppost.  When they asked him what he was looking for, he told them that he had lost the key to his house.  They all got down to help him look, but without any success.  Finally, one of them asked Nasruddin where exactly he had lost the key.  Nasruddin replied, “In the house.”

“Then why,” his friends asked, “are you looking under the lamppost?”

Nasruddin replied, “Because there’s more light here.”

It’s natural and rational for us to be lazy, greedy, ambitious, impatient, selfish, vain, and ignorant — or so I argue in Mastery in 7 Steps.

Nasruddin desires his house key.  Why?  Presumably, it’s because he naturally and rationally thinks it would be good for him to be able to enter his house.  So far, so good.

The problem comes because he’s looking for it the lazy way even though he knows he can’t find it there.

Don’t we all do that with happiness?

We naturally and rationally want to be happier.  There are lots of things that we think will make us happier and, so, we desire them.  So far, so good.

Even though we know better, we also foolishly look for happiness where it cannot possibly be found.

Are all our strivings only for brief bouts of happiness? 

Isn’t what we really desire happiness that lasts?

If so, where can it be found?

It’s impossible for it to be found in temporary – even fleeting – experiences. 

Yet, because it’s easy to look there, that’s where we insist on looking to find it.

To desire something is to be dissatisfied.  If we lack, for example, enough love or sex or friendship or power or esteem or whatever we think will make us happier, then we spend life trying to arrange the world so that we get more of it.

While we are so striving, we are unhappy because we desire the world to be different than it is.  If we manage to get what we want, we are unhappy because, since we understand that it’s temporary because the world is in ceaseless flux, we live in fear of losing it.

The problem is that temporal goods, even though they are valuable, are not really what will satisfy or fulfill us in a lasting way. 

That’s impossible.  Temporal goods are temporary.  That’s true for friendships and love affairs and power and so on and on. 

In that sense, their value is always only secondary.  It’s not that they are not valuable; it’s that they are not what will really fulfill us in a lasting way.  [See my

Once we realize that we’ve wasted a lot of life looking for lasting happiness where it cannot be found, doesn’t it make sense to begin to look for it where it might actually be found?

3 thoughts on “Desire and Nasruddin’s Key

  1. Kelly maggiore

    Wow very interested and I love it

    23/07/2021 at 8:39 am
  2. Mark Ky Keicher

    Good stuff, Duke!
    I am finding that the key is embracing darkness! Why are people afraid of the dark? It can be very illuminating!!

    27/07/2021 at 9:32 am
  3. Dennis Bradford

    Thanks. I’m not sure what “embracing darkness” means? Are you talking about physical darkness or psychological darkness (“the shadow”)? If the latter, I think your point may be similar to Jung’s about the value of being open to it.

    27/07/2021 at 1:59 pm

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