Ok, I said I wasn't going to go that far, at least for today. So taking as a given some physical material essentials, clothes, dishes, a pot, a pan, silverware, etc... what does it mean to need? And how many different kinds of needs are there? My life is slightly easier since I bought that middle-sized pot at goodwill a couple of weeks ago. It serves a concrete purpose in my life, makes my life easier. But I'd be hardpressed to say I need it more than the doll that I've had since I was 4, who still lives in my bedroom closet, or my photo albums.
But what is it to need? What exactly is a need? I often think of Maslow's Heirarchy, though I don't completely buy it.
Here's how Mirriam-Webster defines need:
need noun \ˈnēd\
1 : necessary duty : obligation
2a : a lack of something requisite, desirable, or useful
b : a physiological or psychological requirement for the well-being of an organism
3 : a condition requiring supply or relief
4 : lack of the means of subsistence : poverty
1 : to be needful or necessary
2 : to be in want
What immediately strikes me is that need is defined as a lack. Therefore, is it a stretch to say that we only need what we don't have? That need is a desire, a wanting? We cannot, by definition, need the things that we have. Something about that construction of our language fascinates me. A need is something that is forever suspended in the external. In order to exist, it is and must remain perpetually out of reach.
So, if I am giving away the things that I don't need, am I giving away everything I own? No. Far from it. So far I'm defining the things I need as the things I have use for, the things I love, the things like that gravy boat that contribute to real joy and meaning in my life, the things that allow me to share that joy and meaning with others. Silly maybe, but I will certainly keep one set of extra blankets so that I may provide for guests.
In any case, part of my intention here is to try to allow room for that definition to start to wiggle around, and after some time and poking and prodding, we'll see what it morphs into. Most of all though, I'm trying to investigate the feelings of desire, attachment, and fear that seem to be so deeply embedded in our relationships to things.