Placing Self-Actualization Over Basic Needs
Focus on Heaven, and you shall have the Earth thrown in. Focus on Earthly matters, and you shall live in Hell. There's some old saying along these lines, I admit my plagiarism freely. However, the following commentary may not do the original full justice. Do not expect verbatim cognitions from me. But enough stalling by way of digression.
It is not entirely true that we 'get what we ask for', or that we receive precisely the object(s) of our intended focus, the reality is less simplistic. Maslow has famously done an excellent job of breaking down the elements and roughly sketching the processes involved in personal growth towards Self-actualization. Go research his 'hierarchy of needs' if you are not yet familiar. 'Good stuff', as they say.
Unfortunately, although not in any way due to Maslow's own efforts, the pyramidal visual representation he posited, along with our common thought patterns, so heavily tilted on the side of the linear as they are, lend us to see the 'hierarchy' as composed of building blocks. In other words, we assume we must satisfy our lower (basic) needs before we can really tackle higher (self-actualization) needs. This mistaken premise often leads to a flurry of activity & energy spent to solve the basic needs of others, in the (vain) hope that, once cured, these others will magically begin self-actualizing. In practice, this is rarely the case, things turning invariably into an endless black hole of mismanaged resource. This situation has led to an 'inability' to self-actualize for these very targeted segments of society.
The energy & abundance inherent in the self-actualization process is more than sufficient to cover the basic needs of any individual. We (general statement) feel as though some folks are completely incapable of self-actualizing altogether, perhaps due to a strenuous & stressful upbringing, a genetic or developmental predisposition to medical issues affecting basic life skills/comforts/etc, or any number of internal or external environmental factors. We tend to highlight as 'exceptions' any who overcome adversity, challenges or barriers to success. But what if these 'exceptions' were in fact the rule? What if (and this may be a radical concept) every human being is capable (and desirous) of total self-actualization, within the context of their own unique manifestation. What if we're not all as different or unique as we suppose, deep down? Spoiler alert: 'Tis the facts.
If we set aside our Fears for one moment, embracing our Hopes, we could collectively develop solid plans of action to create the type of world society we long for in our Hearts. We are constantly 'trapped' in an endless cycle of 'putting our fires', a phenomenon well-observed (and handled) in the world of business. Much of my former career was spent in coming up with strategic solutions to tactical problems, aka long-term solutions to prevent/shape future conflicts/societal change. Due to this, I tend to see the long-term effects before the short-term. We could all use (and work to develop) this viewpoint. Our attention spans allow us (en masse) to be manipulated in an infinite number of ways.
One's most powerful asset is personal awareness. Awareness is not to be (explicitly) found in books, documentaries or news broadcasts. One must expand one's awareness, of this we are certain. However, awareness cannot be cultivated by swallowing whole the thoughts or 'truths' of others. In the body, an excess of food moving through less to haste within the digestive system (trying to keep up), often resulting in malnutrition (due to malabsorption). Let's learn to chew our metaphorical food. Less can be more. A single thought well-absorbed is worth far more that hundreds accepted without adequate consideration. Haste is a feeling of Fear, created in the body (or bodies, most especially the physical & emotional), largely in response to a fulfillment-deficiency of basic needs. A clear mind makes short work of emotional chaos, yet emotional chaos easily disturbs the tranquility of a clear mind. Classic chicken-egg scenario. We must learn who we can trust in times of chaos, and who we cannot. But how? We feel in the emotional whirlwind, and our minds are cluttered, even on the best of days. Even when our basic needs are covered, we worry about the future state of these needs. War, protests, violence & uncertainty seem to spare none. Certainly a strong economic position today does not fully prevent falling prey to these nemeses.
A philosophy of entropy & scarcity has come to dominate our world, driven as it is by the animal of commerce. A business primarily concerned with covering the 'basic needs' of its shareholders, for example, spares no resources for more human and humane (also 'riskier') enterprises. From a commercial standpoint, self-actualization is an inconvenience, a luxury, or at best part of a clever marketing strategy, but certainly not a business requirement. Despite assertions to the contrary within our current legal landscape, human beings are not corporate entities, wholly devoid of higher needs. What makes us human and not merely animals (although domesticated [essentially 'humanized'] animals are an exception to this category) is precisely the driving presence of our self-actualization needs. Whenever we treat a person as though they are without these needs (often by not being present with them ourselves), we stray into the dangerous territory of debasing another human being. Handing a homeless man (or woman) a sandwich can be an act of generosity shared between equals, or (and more often the case), it can be performed in a debasing manner, potentially leading the recipient to begin viewing him/herself through this same lens, taking on a permanent internal devaluation. Us vs. Them thinking develops, violence always following quickly in its wake.
Keeping 'Them' out becomes a requirement to fulfill 'Our' basic needs. War is the unavoidable long-term consequence of this primary focus on meeting basic needs. War is Hell... we have circled back to my opening statement.
Heaven on Earth seems a lofty goal, us idealists having been 'disproven' by the existentialist 'discoveries' of science... so we are told. But perhaps idealism is worth another try, her precepts being those of integrity, honesty and personal integration... you know: Self-Actualization.