Working towards meeting human needs. A logical pathway or an oxymoron?
I frequently speak of my escape in 2013 from a traditional American life as the catalyst to the state of being I am able to enjoy now. What I often don’t speak about is a period of integration that followed-my communion with nature and the grounding which helped me set up new structures.
In the process I cleared away societies’ needs, dwelled in the darkness of utter unknowing and despair, and unearthed what is essential to me as a human animal. In this piece I take a look at these needs, at the failure to meet them with tools and structures of the marketplace, and a path forward.
Through my time living in Africa, Asia, and Europe I found that material security of having my housing being taken care of did not make me feel at home. I would add pictures of friends to my walls. I would purchase art. While a feeling of comfort would warm my being as my toes got lost in the new fuzzy rug, the need to connect and belong was seemingly out of reach.
When living abroad, I found that there was not always enough excitement about novel experiences to mask the need for a sense of place. My efforts of learning the language, reaching an advanced level in it, or even knowing the language of the country where I lived with a native level proficiency did not meet my need to feel heard. Despite even the best efforts on both sides to communicate, we were still limited by symbolic nature of language itself. I would create opportunities to communicate with locals of different backgrounds and in different settings. While a moment of understanding would arise out of a shared value, they were fleeting. Yet I grasped to do better, to reach some elusive perfect state of full synchronicity.
My never-seemed-good-enough efforts to meet the innate human needs were a product of social conditioning. When society is built on the premise that more resources and effort can meet our needs we can enjoy small milestones of outer success but are ultimately doomed to failure. The answer is not to burn the structures to the ground or to detach and renounce all but to look within first.
My time back in the US has been immensely challenging. I could no longer work “full-time”. I didn’t want to go to parties. Despite having spent college and grad school on the subject, I now had little interest in politics. Underpinning it all was my inability to engage in transactional relationships. Whether work, romantically, or even bringing up the subject on a detached intellectual level it felt like I was doing damage to my being.
So I started to reconnect with myself and what I found valuable. During this period, I went through massive uncertainty, right to the bottom levels of the Maslow’s hierarchy. Food was not always plentiful or nutritious even in the country that wastes 30% of theirs. Purchasing property was out of reach and putting my signature of a year-long lease felt like authoring a fantasy novel. Last year I just took it one month at a time.
And I’m still here. Throughout the process I learned that one really only needs food, air, water, shelter, and a feeling of compassion. For the physical needs I worked to get the financial resources necessary to continue. For compassion-I did inner work. For the rest, I bought time, experimented and created. My work rather than being a tutelage to the status quo was a commitment to a future that closely aligned with a multi-dimensional reality and how I fit in it.
When work is tied to the marketplace, an exchange of our time for goods and services gives the modern life its comforts. In the process, our innate human needs get muddled with the tools and experiences manufactured to meet them. Seemingly perfect, this reality is transactional, purposeless, empty. It is the one I no longer take part in.