Meeting Our Needs

I just returned from a retreat at Ben Lomond Quaker Center, How Much is Enough? We examined this along with how much is plenty, how much is too much.

It occurred to me that we often ask if activities and possessions give us pleasure, whether they enrich us, rather than asking a much more fundamental question: who do I want to be?

Starting at the basic question has freed me to choose somewhat better the activities and possessions that help me become that person.

A man driving me to another Ben Lomond event years ago said that he loved the way he lived with a car, what he was able to do. He loved as well the activities he had chosen when he was without a car, in an earlier time. He loved better what he did without a car than the choices he made with a car.

Jon Carroll, a columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle, had a similar column years ago. He loved having fun in Central America, where fun meant going to a party where someone would play a guitar. He loved having fun in the US, driving to an expensive restaurant. The simpler fun nourished and pleased him more.

Once we know better what we want, the choices we make are more likely to satisfy us. Like these two men, we can choose not just what gives us pleasure, but we can consider shifting to a way of being and living that more often meets our needs.

It occurred to me recently that I really need to be an extrovert, but that’s hard for me. I became increasingly deaf beginning in 1992 (right ear) and 1994 (left). A cochlear implant was activated September 13, 2004; my nerves gradually become healthier, my brain gradually figures out how to sort noise from signal, how to understand speech over a wide range of loudness levels. But it’s still pretty difficult to be in multi-person conversations — because so many people remember to speak clearly only when they respond to me, I miss out on the give and take that doesn’t come directly from/to me. I have a headache during the conversation, as my brain struggles to keep up.

I’ve chosen other activities that give me pleasure, but they aren’t satisfying this real need in me. As my hearing continues to improve, the problem will go away to some extent. But I now realize that it’s worth headaches to be more often with groups of people, not just people one on one, for the pleasure that provides.

Examples of other needs, or strong wants: family and friends who love me and whom I can love in return, community, a way to contribute to the universe, a way to continue learning. My house as a means of hospitality. Planned serendipity: walking around to do errands allows me to run into people and taking the bus allows me to meet people and ideas I might not ever meet on a plane. Nearby stores so that buying food is a chance to walk and relax, not a major event. A big increase in bicycling, as I’ve lost in the past few years the sense that my body can take me where I want to go. A sense that my way of living and consumption patterns are more in line with the Earth’s ability to provide, so that people (and other species!) might all share more equally. A sense of fullness and joy that over the last few years has gradually replaced what was too often a sense of neediness in my activities.

What are your needs?

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