Roxie, my three-legged monstrosity of adorableness and vigor of a pup that she is, seems to have only ever wanted three things in life: food, water, and attention. As I lay next to her on her checkered cotton throne thinking about her beautiful simplicity, I can’t help but think that Roxie wants more. Roxie wants to be better than the other dogs. Roxie wants to have a trophy rack for every wretched crow she has ever caught. Roxie wants to pass the Bar and achieve a revolutionary k9 status, setting a precedent that it really shouldn’t be seen as so uncommon for a bitch to be a lawyer. As I am the lone, overbearing supporter of this idea, Roxie is as Roxie does, as she always will. So long as her bowl is full of puppy chow and she can occasionally sit on the couch when everyone is in a good mood, Roxie will be blissful. Her needs match her wants and, although she could always use a few extra birds to chase, she lives a unified life.
The human condition, unlike Roxie’s, opens a much more aggressive and temperamental floodgate where the flow of needs and wants within people’s minds are a swirled disarray of raw thought and emotion, still churning into action. Over time, it has become understood that the responsibility of each man and woman is to build dividers that create clear, separate rivers of what our body cannot live without and what our soul cannot live without. Luckily, society has been very proactive as to establish the basis of what a necessity is; we caught on quickly that life is always a little tougher when you erase oxygen from the equation. While these factors remain consistent, the struggle of this dilemma is what are true wants and needs, what action to what degree are we willing to go to, and who are we willing to become to attain them?
With all of these floodgates and rivers of the mind, where is the source of this water and where does the motivation come from that turns the Adam’s Ale into palpable action? Abraham Maslow is a renowned American psychologist who developed the Hierarchy of Needs, which explains the steps and patterns that human motivation moves through to attain our needs in life (physiological, safety, love/belonging, esteem, and self-actualization needs). While developing this Hierarchy, Maslow made it a special point that he only studied the healthiest 1% of college students alongside only individuals he saw as exemplary people (Albert Einstein, Eleanor Roosevelt, Frederick Douglass, etc.) to formulate this theory. Not wanting a crippled psychology or philosophy of his work, the stunted, immature, and neurotic rivulets of society were halted to foster more attention on the strength of the standard streams. As I look at the divided pyramid of fulfilled human needs, I cannot help but be geometrically confused. I feel much better about everything when I flip the pyramid upside-down; It seems essential to hold a strong morality, be a dynamic problem solver, and cherish a lack of prejudice before I even begin to worry about how hungry or horny I am. Things really start taking shape when the pyramid is not only flipped, but broken into its 5 pieces and a personalized pattern is built. I end up with a structure that is far from any figure I learned in middle school. Does this become what I truly need or what I feel like I need based off of my personal desires? Am I therefore neurotic and secluded from the healthiest brains in the nation for my skewed identity of necessity?
The established needs of the 1% have become the norm for the 99% that are drying up from lack of attention on their condition. Needs and wants have become synonymous in this privileged, competitive world in which we live. For some, skipping out on food or refusing to sleep is a sacrifice made in order to procure being content with one’s family, attain personal respect, or to ensure a high sexual intimacy esteem. Can we live with this? Well, we have to. Maslow considered the 99% not used in his studies as the majority that would destroy the fibers of his theory. The truth is that the people are bizarre and a needed desire to one is a grave necessity to another, even when that is coupled with unhealthiness or poor decision making. As long as people are people and know what they want, or at least think they know what they need to want while they walk the privileged grey line of not having to make life-and-death decisions, Maslow’s hierarchy will never stay a stagnant pyramid, but reconstruct from person to person.
Artistic brilliance and dynamic paradigm shift potential are things that shine through even the most neurotic flesh. History proves to us that even with a skewed hierarchy of needs or being unable to provide for one’s own well-being, this does not keep a prodigy from turning their thoughts into pieces of art that move millions or keep a progressive thinker from planting their seed of revolution in society. Pythagoras was one of the original father’s of mathematical and scientific thought, but he also founded his own religion which believed beans were evil. Lord Byron was second only to Shakespeare as the most famous English poet, but he also couldn’t handle being alone without his dog at Cambridge so he got a pet bear, which he leashed and took on walks. That problem for him only deepened when later in life he lived with ten horses, eight dogs, five peacocks, three monkeys, five cats, a falcon, and an Egyptian Crane. Michelangelo, who painted the awe-invoking God Creates Adam, sculpted the statue of David, and was the architect behind St. Peter’s Basilica, could not handle and had no interest in caring for the most juvenile of personal hygiene (he was a rough case by 15th century Italian standards, nevertheless). He nearly never bathed, changed his clothes very rarely, and shed the skin from his feet like a snake when he had a moment of wanting to take his shoes off. These prodigies have all three shaped the way we live our lives, all while holding different values of needs and overcoming attaining what the most basic need for them was. Some went to the most extreme lengths to procure self-actualization without even batting an eye as to their physiological needs, while others couldn’t survive without having satisfied their desires to love and hold good esteem. Their art and wisdom transcended their insanity and jumbled pyramid hierarchy. This remains the case today even for the most average man or woman that has been classified as the 99% neurotic. Art must not be healthy, art is not insane: art is art, and art is beauty. If we can learn to understand this, we will no longer have robust streams coupled with shriveling creeks, but a healthy delta of unified beauty, art, and culture.
So, Roxie might never be a lawyer, and as hard as I’m hanging onto the idea of it, she will not be the next Michelangelo. As she lives on a different level of evolutionary existence where her wants and needs are much more simplified, we as humans walk this path of building our own structure of necessity and desire in life that is as unique as our cellular makeup. While Maslow himself never endorsed the creation of the Hierarchy of Needs pyramid, he still honored his universal pattern of motivation and the point is more so that human beings master being the simplest, most complex beings of them all; we have the ability to perfectly exemplify a theory or definition while still being capable of defying every idea and formula we could have about ourselves. Finding more mental and emotional security in having certain needs met does not undermine personal value or intellectual and artistic ability, in fact it creates a transfigured brilliance that will only become more complex as we as humans inevitably complex ourselves and the art we commit ourselves to making. I want what I need, I need what I want. It is for each and every one of us to decide personal importance. For now, I should really get working on that crow trophy case.