I’ve been reading Thoreau’s Walden. It’s a great book, full of observations on what we actually need in life. It summarises the two years he spent living in a small cabin by Walden Pond in the woods. It’s been a subject of one of my talks for a while now too. It got me thinking, as I’m want to do…
What do we need? Actually need. That needs defining a little further because there’s a massive difference between what we need to survive and what we need to live!
We need food. That’s pretty obvious. We need to eat. But what should we eat? And how much of it? It’s likely that we eat the wrong food and we eat too much of it. I’m no dietician, however, we can tell that by just looking at people around us. Now if we take that same observation into nature, we find all animals living there are generally looking fit and healthy. I’ve never seen an over weight fox, spider or buzzard for that matter. As long as our wildlife gets enough, it seems to know when to stop.
Drink, again, obvious, but if you take the last paragraph and substitute drink for eat pretty much every word is the same. And let’s not get onto the subject of alcohol. Yet!
Shelter. Again, obvious, but we take that for granted too. Although many of us have houses bigger than we actually need. As long as we can get out of the wind and rain and be warm enough, now that we have largely shed our fur coat that is. So, a small shed should be enough, right? Long enough to lay down and sleep in and maybe enough room to cook/prepare some food, although that can generally be done outside and toilets have only recently been brought indoors. Oh, and somewhere to wash… Most animals in nature only use shelter for part of their lives and those that make a home keep it very simple.
It’s here that we start to get a little blurry between what we actually need and what we want.
Every creature on this planet has five senses to engage with the world we live on and needs food to eat, liquid to drink and somewhere to find shelter.
Humans however are a little different, we have a mind. Yep we have a MIND. That mind gives us so many other gifts that nothing in nature has. Imagination, creativity, reason, perception and will to name a few.
It also gives us the desire to want things. A bigger house, with lots of rooms, one in which to cook, one to eat in, one to watch tv, one to bath in, one to poo in, one to sleep in, maybe with a dressing room and an en suite, maybe one to read in, or to play X box and one to keep the car in. Then we fill these rooms with the biggest and most expensive toys we can afford. In fact, we’ll go for the biggest house we can afford to. Then we’ll need a car to drive the great distances we now need to cover.
Of course, air conditioning is becoming more important now, especially with these heatwave temperatures we have to deal with. Funny how these temperatures are fine when we spend lots of money on them for our holiday. Major cause for concern when we are at home.
That begets a problem though because we start to become attached to all these niceties and we start to accept them as normal, even have to keep improving them too, the next model of car, TV or I phone. They become must haves. The money to pay for them becomes very important too. As does the possibility of losing all these ‘things’. We best put a big fence around that to keep it all safe then.
Need has been replaced by want, and keep.
We are going into a recession and the cost of living is going to rise.
I had a lovely afternoon with my grandkids the other day and the paradox of the difference between want and need was very clear. One young lady wanted to paddle and we got wet, that didn’t matter, it was funny to be fair, but a little while later she got very upset when she couldn’t win the toy she wanted.
Not having the toy she wanted was more upsetting than never having had it. She didn’t even know the toy existed 5 minutes before, or that there was a possibility of having it.
As adults, what are many of us prone to doing when we can’t have what we want, on any level; personally, emotionally, professionally, materially or any other ‘ally’?
Well, I suggest many find the answer in a bottle, drug, or habit that fuels other addictions, speed or sex for example. Oblivion. Hide from the problem and refuse to take any responsibility for it. Sometimes briefly, sometimes for a very long time.
However, here’s one thing we have as humans that might be more important than all of this though, we do see it on some of our natural companions, but it is most strong in us.
We can overcome almost any difficulty if we choose to Love.
Love each other, everybody that is.
Love our world. Love the natural world that supports us and sustains us, without asking for anything in return.
Love our world that only needs us to love it back.
Love a world that’s stimulates us, feeds us, nurtures us and gives us everything we need.
STIMULATION, OR OBLIVION? What do you choose?
Simon Pollard Countryman and Modern Day Pagan.