Need vs. Greed

Categories: figuring it out, thinking too much

Allow me to pontificate. Upon giving thanks this year, I took a long hard look at how we evaluate what we find ourselves thankful for certain things… and how we come about deeming those things worthy of thanks. Seems that the things we are thankful for are the things we need that if we didn’t miraculously have, we’d be at a certain loss in life with out them. Sometimes detrimental. And other items have a level of greed attached to them in the guise of being a need. Basic Psychological texts will tell you that Humans have 5 basic physical needs, the likes of which, without them, we’d surely die or develop poorly. They are: Food, Water, Shelter, Clothing and Sex (or Affection). To take it one step further, Abraham Maslow, a cognitive psychologist, identified that there are 5 basic psychological human needs in order to achieve a state called “Self Actualization” which in his theory is the way a human reaches the pinnacle of who they are meant to become. It is the point at which someone may consider themslves to have reached the Integrity stage of Ego Integrity vs. Despair (as per Erik Erikson’s psychosocial stages). So Maslow breaks it down like this: There is a needs pyramid (imagine a food pyramid), where if a need is satisfied, it no longer motivates the human and the next higher need takes its place (already putting us in a position of constant need).

At the base of the pyramid, we have Psychological Needs which encompass Air, Water, Food and Sleep. Higher needs are not noticed or fulfilled till the basic needs for survival are met. Next level up we have Safety Needs: living in a safe arena, job security, financial reserves, etc. This level needs to be fufilled to remove the feeling of being threatened physically or emotionally. Next and center level from that is Social Needs level. Friendships, group belongings and the need to give and receive love make themselves apparent here. At the next level (which if you ask me looks like all these needs come from the previous level) is the Esteem Need: need for respect, need for achievements to be recognized, need for attention, need for a certain kind of reputation. Which brings us finally to Self Actualization… the level at which the only needs to be filled are the need for truth, wisdom, justice and meaning.

All of this to say, where does the need to hoard anything come from? Is it the lack of being able to fulfill one need that translates into having to get as much of something that you CAN get your hands on in order to compensate. If the basic NEED for food is reached and one (according to the needs pyramid) can then attend to higher and more pressing needs, then why is anyone fat? Why are there people that sleep too much? Why are there women with 300 pairs of shoes? Why are there people with 4 or 5 lovers? Why are there people with bajillions of dollars? If needs are being met at one level… why aren’t people moving on to the next level? These needs are based on what keeps a human motivated… maybe some are stagnant and cannot move forward, and would like to keep themselves in the illusion of having much… but it’s only much of one kind of thing.

Yet and still… we say THANKS for things like… a new car (when the old one may have been running fine), bags and bags of clothes that we’ve outgrown or never use but take up real estate in our homes. Thanks for clear skin… Thanks for a new MP3 player… taking a quiet mental inventory of all the things we have… but maybe didn’t need.

So… Thank you God for the ability to breathe. Thanks for the food that was on my plate, although excessive… it fulfilled that need. Thanks for the opportunity to lay and sleep through the night. Thanks for the somewhat clear almost unadulterated water that they sell in bottles that I can drink. I’m grateful to not get rained on tonight when it starts, but this apartment is a 1000 times BETTER than a cardboard box… so I’m moreso thankful.

It’s a good exercise to look at the things that you have because you NEED THEM… and the ones u do because they’re just nice to have or you just like to have them. It gives deeper insight into who you are… and where you’re going (if anywhere at all).

Off to fulfill a basic need… sleep.



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