Hungry Ghosts

By: Andee Scarantino

(3 min read)

I’m about as over New York City as I’ve ever been.

I think I was over it before, but now, after a pandemic and two and a half years of sobriety, so much of it seems so empty.

When my boyfriend was visiting me last week, he mentioned how everything here seems like a hungry ghost.

What do I mean by that? In Chinese Buddhism and Taoism, a hungry ghost is a being that is driven by intense emotional needs.

Basically, people who need to feel shit all the time– feel “good shit” all the time. Need to constantly attract a dopamine hit.

I’ve been a hungry ghost in the past, driven by the desire to manage my emotions to ones of constant euphoria.

As we were walking down the street one day, some dude in a suit was yapping loudly on a cellphone about “two new restaurants that opened up.” We’re always chasing that new great foodie experience.

We’ve got Frosé, alcohol-infused ice cream, mochi donuts, those weird Korean fast food hot dogs that are made of cheese, fried, and covered in ketchup. There’s trendiness all over the place. Fashion. High fashion. Low fashion. Fancy music venues. Axe throwing.

Anything that can occupy the minds and bodies of hungry, unsatisfied, bored beings that wish to do no inner exploration of any kind.

We go to places and do shit, but nothing is happening. We make friends with others who are deeply unsatisfied with being alive. We go out into the manifestation and try to make meaning, but there’s none to be made.

There’s nothing “out there” for us. It’s just a void of distraction. It’s a hamster wheel of pleasure. All topped off with the whipped cream and cherry combination of “convenience,” drizzled heavily over the Broadway lights.

There’s nothing happening here but hungry ghosts feeding, thinking there’s something to see, somewhere to go, something to do. Career climbers. Excessive “travelers.” People who have this idea that there’s gotta be “more.”

We have to taste the new flavors and smell the new scents, fuck the new guy and then bitch that the website is crashing for the monkeypox vaccine.

What’s the new whiskey? What’s the new infusion? What’s next? They opened a new spot down the street. Let’s drink six bottles of wine and pretend that our lives are something.

Even the “spiritual people” are just chasing highs.

We’ve got shit to open our minds. (I may have had an experience with some of this recently.) But even psilocybin be a hungry ghost. Chasing the idea that somewhere outside of your boring little body, there’s something else for you.

Like that God is some being for you to find.

Even me, building things, building my shit from the bottom, getting to a place where so much seemed constricted so I employed my lower chakras, dug deeply into the earth with both feet… Only to realize when I “did it,” that that too was just another hungry ghost. I’m still just consciousness constricted.

I think of Allen Ginsberg:

I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked,
dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix”

I read Howl today, written in 1954-55, and I see absolutely no difference between the hungry ghosts of then, and the hungry ghosts of now.

I’ve been a person walking in circles (literally) at a restaurant, craving a mind-fix to elevate my serotonin, a storyline to play out. A decade ago, I wrote a blog called “punch me in the head so I can feel something.”

I thought that life was for feeling only “goodness,” and the place I needed to be I had not yet reached.

And yet… this is my experience. Not the highs and lows of dramatic sequences. Not the euphoria of drunken bliss. Not reaching the top of some obstacle.

The human experience is this. This. Right now. This.

Like Alan Watts wrote in his book of the same name.

“This is it.”

Like John Lennon said: “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans”

This. is it.

Your trip to the grocery store. Your colonoscopy. Brushing your teeth.

This… is it.

Andee Scaratino 
                                                                     All Things Wellness, LLC

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