Reason not the need

How often are we encouraged to consider what we need? There’s daily bombardment with pressure to want. Demand the fastest broadband, the smallest gadget, the latest hairstyle, the best insurance deal, the mobile phone with the most free minutes. Do we need any of this? How much happiness do you derive from the exact details of your DVD player’s specs, or the features in your car? Do they enable you to go to bed at night feeling satisfied, and good about your life? Probably not.

But they fill the void. They create noise to ward off the terrible silence that comes when you stop focusing on what you want and try to think instead about need.

What do you need?

Another expensive toy? That state of the art thing the guy next door just bought? A more expensive dress than the one the woman at the next desk was wearing yesterday? Those shoes. That car. And when you get them, you can be sure the next new bright shiny better thing will be along to tell you that the best is still beyond your reach. Happiness is in the next aisle, waiting on your credit card. You did get the best credit card deal, didn’t you?

The voice of need is a small, quiet voice, easily drowned out. We mistake it for want, assume we can answer it in the next shopping binge. We can drown it with alcohol. We can fill our time with the internet and television so that there’s no time or quiet to hear need speaking.

We need good, nutritious food, a sufficiency of sleep and exercise, time to rest and relax. We’re told to want ever faster, more hectic lifestyles full of junk food, an excess of work, too little sleep. We need darkness and quiet, we get light and noise 24/7. We need love, relationship and companionship. We get facebook friends and the people in soap operas and celebrity mags.

To answer the most basic needs of your body and mind, is to reject the whole social structure being built around us. It means not running pell mell from one appointment to the next, driving, using, consuming, earning frantically to pay for the next big thing. We don’t need that. But admitting we don’t need that and stepping away from the ‘norm’ is a scary process. Answering need means walking, not driving. Taking the time to be still and quiet, to sit with your arms round someone you love, just looking at the sky or listening to the birds. Happiness is not waiting on a supermarket shelf or at the bottom of a bottle. No one on television can actually sell you the secret of it.

The Emperor has no clothes on.

As long as we keep on letting other people tell us what to want, we are not going to sit down and figure out what we need. If we keep going along with it, buying into the story that this is how it should be, we perpetrate the myths. The lies. Of course we want the same things everyone else does, don’t we? Are we happy? Really? Or hankering after all the things we don’t have and think we ought to want. The next big shiny whatever. The next illusionary suit of clothes to dress up the emperor we so desperately want to pretend we are.

The title of this post refers to King Lear, fighting to keep all the trappings that, in his mind, equate to his dignity and sense of self. A man who is enslaved by what he wants such that he loses almost everything he truly needs. As a play it’s a good expression of world and relationship gone wrong. So do we too hang on to our trappings and illusions, crying ‘reason not the need’ and marching steadfastly towards our own ruin? Do we keep dressing ourselves up in the pretend happiness we’re told we want? Or do we start thinking?

Dangerous stuff this.

What do you need?

4 thoughts on “Reason not the need”

  1. There is a wonderful speech in the first Wall Street that begins “Greed is good …” Not everyone is sold the newest toys- some of us actually want them.

    What bothers me is that altruism excuses lack of responsiblity and encourages apathy towards working to achieve our goals. No, we are not all entitled to everything that others have . Each according to their ability. And I would foot note this with the words, by legal means.

    Sorry , but no matter how deserving a person may be by being nice, the person who sets up their own business at three in the morning before a two hour commute and a ten hour day at someone else’s business, then comes back and works his business till bedtime is more deserving of their toys whether anyone else sees their value or not – and I am tired of the weekend partiers, the lets slow things down people , and god will providers trying to denigate the value of honest labor for honest reward. Let let Horatio Alger out of the closet , untie his hands and unstop his mouth. We were great once. We can be again. It means keeping our jobs for Americans and taking pride in being the best.

    And shame on the lazy cowards who fail to meet the challenege.


  2. Sue, I’m not an advocator of laziness, I’ve worked enough ten, twelve, fourteen hour days myself down the years – some of it paid, some of it as a volunteer. It’s just I think it’s important to know WHY we’re doing that – what is it for? If you’re doing it for reasons that you are conscious of and that matter to you, then whatever those are, fair enough. What I want to challenge is the pressure to run on the treadmill for someone else’s gain so that we can reward ourselves with toys that don’t make us feel happy even. It’s different when they do. But that comes back to knowing what you need, not being told what you ought to want.

    I’m all for being the best and taking pride in being the best, for doing the work for the love of it as much as the other rewards, for believing in the value of the work and therefore only doing work you can see a value in, not running on someone else’s treadmill. If someone works with courage and integrity and strives after things they value, then all kudos to them. But work yourself to an early death just to have a new car every year? I’m not sure that’s clever, or a good use of life. Especially if you’ve never stopped to consider it in those terms.

    What I’m saying is, do not let anyone else dictate your understanding of what makes life worth living, but make damn sure you know for yourself.


  3. For many finding someone to love (and be loved by) is like searching for hen’s teeth. Acquiring mountains of tat and noisy distractions is a way to fill the emptiness.
    I find myself bewildered by those adverts that depict office workers and executives stressed up to the ears, their bodies collapsing with illness ~ and then recommends the latest medicament that will enable them to keep slogging away, terrified that someone else might steal a lead on them. Talk about patching over the cracks whilst the ship sinks ever deeper.
    If work if making you ill ~ change job, get something less likely to give you ulcers and a heart seizure. Don’t just take drugs to mask the problem, and thus become more sick.


  4. Good words there Robin. I know I’m speaking as a married person, but I’ve had some very lonely times even whilst ostensibly in a relationship, and I came to feel that there is much more to love than just romantic love, much more to relationship than coupledom, and that friendship, love of the non-human, love of land, sky and spirit is a far better way of tackling the aloneness than drugs, tat and noise ever could be. I’m half way to writing a whole new blog post here!


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