Re: Need

I recently pleaded to a nurse, “I need to be rescued!” Needless to say she paid attention to this call to action and found a way to get me the help I needed. Bless her heart. Most times I think we are individually reluctant to say we need something. We like to be independent in our quest for the things we require. We don’t want to appear as whiners or be left feeling bitter because someone else got what we were needing, so generally we are quiet searchers for the things that will make us healthy, happy and whole.

We can all agree that for mere survival we need air & water. We often band together and demand needs as our rights: affordable housing, a clean environment, education, equal pay. When our side seems abandoned we protest, we argue and literally stomp our feet and bang our drums to right the injustice over the distribution of these human needs. How we define a need from a want can lead to further discord until a unified consensus is found.

Parents have to be wise in differentiating between needs and wants so their children can grow to understand. Very young children may have tantrums when they want something. In the film The Jerk, Steve Martin’s character finds out the differences between needs and wants through a humorous journey. In this scene I laugh at the childlike way he adds to his list of what he “really needs”. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rSWBuZws30g

Is emotion to want, as survival is to need? I’ve had some insightful conversations with my academic activist son on this topic. He easily lists Education, Housing, Employment, Food, Health Care as needs. He argues these needs must be supported by governments and to a larger or smaller degree they all are. Being a Star Trek fan, I would agree these five primary needs to be free for all, supported by tax dollars. Far from being utopian in scope, once these needs are met then we can tackle other areas of life with full bellies, open hearts and keen minds.

Trouble is, some of us think waging war is needed. Some think we need massive amounts of wealth. Others think education is only for boys or the rich or the white. Still others think the food that we grow, the water we drink must be managed for maximum profit. Information is even being commodified. “That’s for me to know and you to find out.” used to be a boast, a school yard taunt or a military pronouncement. Now, in the search for basic facts, the information you need may end up costing you.

My personal needs for optimum emotional health include safety and love. Sometimes what you need has to actively pursued. Sometimes it’s a matter of seeing what has been there all along. The song, ‘Without You’ written by Pete Ham & Tom Evans of Welsh rock group Badfinger plaintively captures the universal need for love. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PPco24LS31A

Re: Content

Content is a word that can change in meaning depending on whether the first or last syllable is stressed. When I write I always try to be content with my content. The English language is a delight for authors yet for ESL students it’s a source of confusion. Let’s explore.

I have a small shed just outside my front door which is part of a carport. The contents of the shed include tools, old paint tins, recycling totes, and stuff. The stuff is hard to classify and hard to remove. Being a clutter-free kind of person I am not content with the state my shed is in. On recycling day I pull out the totes filled with other waste I’ve produced. I mutter internally about doing something about the contents of this space. It’s a useful space, if managed properly. I tell myself: Why do I have three boxes of rocks and shells from past holidays? What is the use of three paint trays? When was the last time I used two golf putters? How can I ever part with my childhood fishing rod?

Just try removing or resolving the contents of your thoughts when it comes to assessing what you really need in life, as opposed to what you think you need. This exercise can be very contentious. It’s an ongoing internal struggle to justify what amounts to the content of your life. Your brain must sort things out before you can do any external sorting. My contention is that people like Marie Kondo make this process look easy, while for most it’s not that simple.

Those who can’t cope with the reality of their stuff end up being labelled hoarders. When this happens family and friends may not be content to let the situation go by without an intervention. We are so fascinated with how we stuff our stuff that a reality television series called ‘Hoarders’ has been broadcast for a decade on various networks.

While some seem content to live amongst the contents of their mess, others are more interested in examining themselves. Part of the famous ‘I Have a Dream’ speech by Martin Luther King Jr. comes to mind; “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

The content of one’s life is hard to determine. Most of the time I feel a sense of contentment. As much as I can bring order to my world, I feel generally contented. Sometimes that feeling crosses the border into happiness; an upgrade if you like. When I take into account my relationships, my history, my personal successes, I feel contentment. It often comes out as a deep sigh, sometimes audible, as I lay my head down on my pillow and wait for sleep each night. It’s a pleasing moment. The shed can wait.