I once asked the university students taking a seminar I was teaching what the first utterance is that we make as humans. They gave typical responses such as Da-da, Ma-ma, goo-goo, gah-gah, and so on. It surprised them when I suggested that our first utterance is, I WANT—I want food, love, warmth, and protection—and that we continue to utter, I WANT— I want more food, MORE love, MORE warmth, and MORE protection.
To where does our wanting lead? Happiness? Satisfaction? Exploration? Ingenuity? Greed?
Today, history was made as the result of our wanting—NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter is the first aircraft to make a controlled flight on another planet. Source Also today, Canadians will throw away more food than they consume.
WANT vs NEED vs DESIRE
WANT is defined as to be needy or destitute, to have or feel need, to be necessary or needed, to desire to come, go, or be, and/or to wish for a particular thing or plan of action.
Hereon in, the word ‘want’ is treated as equal to and the basis of ‘need’ and ‘desire’.
That said, when diving into the world of psychology and spirituality, academics, sages, and economists often separate want from need, want from desire, and need from desire. This separation is so prominent that various theories exist that attempt to explain what it is that mobilizes human beings to be who we are and do what we do to get what we want.
SHELTER, FOOD, FIRE, WATER, AIR — The Basics
We want to be safe and sheltered, to feel warm and comfortable. We want food that gives us strength to go after what we want. We want clean water to drink and fresh air to breathe.
Some say that by having these things, we should be content, even happy. However, the nature of human wanting seems to be infinite. If it did operate as finite, how might the world be right now, especially during this Covid-19 pandemic?
THE WANTING OF MORE
We want a greater, larger, or an extra number/amount of food, shelter, fire, water, and air. Once acquired, we continue to want! We set new goals to achieve our wants. Plans are executed and results hoped for. The wanting of more drives humans in every culture. The result of wanting more?
COMPLEX AND OBVIOUS
Many I meet are overwhelmed with life because of the wants they’ve attained or have yet to attain. We bear witness to all that our wants are depositing within us and around us. One obvious example. . .
Wanting MORE shows up when making a bed. Note the number of pillows on a bed in 1960s versus today. We spend more time removing multiple pillows each night and repositioning them again each morning. We even have guides by professionals that explain how we are to place more pillows on our beds.
Last week, a Canadian retailer received a delivery of Squishmallows and ended up selling them directly from the shipping container because purchasers aged 16-35 weren’t going to wait until the toys were put on the display shelves. The average price of an eight inch squishmallow is CD$18-$35. Retailers say that most consumers want more than one squishmallow, typically purchasing twenty at a time.
Our want of brand name products and everyday wears has spawned a counterfeit industry worth US$710 billion. That’s $960 billion Canadian dollars! Canada has a poor track record for harbouring and distributing counterfeit products. We’re a haven for knock-off goods! Source
Specialists struggling to halt counterfeit merchandise say that the only way to immobilize the sale of fake goods is if the consumer, you, me, all Canadians stop wanting to buy the products. If perchance you have purchased a fake product in Canada, click here to report it.
Buyer beware! The majority of counterfeit merchandise is purchased online.
The fight for corruption-free ethical society will have to be fought against this greed and replace it with ‘what can I give’ spirit.A. P. J. Abdul Kalam
A colloquial term for a very large and sometimes ostentatious mass-produced house Source
We want larger homes, and this want is costing us in so many ways. Consider the Canadian home that data analyst Darren Qualman was raised in—1,200 square feet was normal back then. 1,600 square feet, the size of the house [my parents] eventually built, was considered extravagant.
We are demanding more living space while also taking on whopping mortgages. As of this week, the average price of a Canadian home is $716,828.
One article says that we want big homes because: Source
- We believe that a large home shows how successful we are to others!
- Of greed – With the mindset that ‘more is better’, a bigger house means more wealth, more happiness, more recognition, etc.
- We believe that owning a large home is the crown jewel of our Investments.
A New Yorker who decided to downsize and move into a 420 square foot flat says that less clutter in a smaller space gives one the freedom to do things that really matter in life. A financier says we should set aside our egos and only purchase the shelter what we can genuinely afford.
The larger the home, the larger the mortgage, taxes, services, and upkeep. To function within the expanded budget of a large home, typically two of the home dwellers need to be working fulltime at one or more jobs. Add to this the following of trends, such as spending $2000 on a standard fridge or $700 on squishmallows to keep kids happy while caregivers are working, and subsequently we’re left with copious amounts of carbon footprint.
The value of usable groceries that wind up in landfills or other disposal sites is almost $50 billion. That’s more than half the amount Canadians spend on food every year and is enough to feed every Canadian for five months. Source
Global distribution has made the satisfying of our wants much easier. We can bake with diverse flours, eat dried mangos from afar, and we have our pick of specialty wines. With fast food and prepared foods at our fingertips, we also eat more of what we want when we want.
In 2019, Canadians purchased 35.3 billion Canadian dollars’ worth of clothing. No longer wanting these purchases, many of which are still trending, we discard them. 25% of clothes donated to thrift shops are sold. The remaining 75% ends up in landfills or is shipped overseas. Source
TECHNOLOGY: Canadians want their technology and we want it shiny and new. In 2017, Canadians threw out 638,300 tonnes of e-scrap. Globally, humans discard 40 million tons of electronic waste every year or the equivalent of 800 laptops every SECOND, which further accounts for 70% of our overall toxic waste.
AUTOMOBILES: Canadians are buying a record number of new cars that go with a record amount of financing. Source
We want our toys, TVs, trikes, electric bikes, and designer labels. We want exotic holidays, new SUVs, and high speed internet for gaming.
Does getting all that we want make us happy?
Greed is a bottomless pit which exhausts the person in an endless effort to satisfy the need without ever reaching satisfaction.Erich Fromm
Are we satisfied with our wants?
Apparently we are, according to this definition of satisfied: Pleased because you have got what you wanted, or because something has happened in the way that you wanted. Source
Never being satisfied has led to tremendous achievements in every area, from science and space exploration to internet services that enable us to work from home and stay in touch with others around the globe.
Back to the question: Does being satisfied also mean we’re truly happy because we have what we want?
Is there such a thing as genuine happiness as a result of having what we want? Do we even need authentic happiness, with 67% of Canadians saying they’re currently quite happy? Source
According to Rafael Euba, consultant and senior lecturer in Old Age Psychiatry, King’s College London, we’re being sold the idea that the pursuit of happiness is our right via a happiness/positivity industry that’s worth US$11 billion annually. As we continue in our pursuit of happiness, however, real life doesn’t always deliver, leaving happiness to be nothing more than a theoretical, elusive goal. Euba further suggests that we are not designed to be happy, and, that when we are happy and content with the way things are, we might miss real attacks on our basic survival. Source
Psychologists put forward three theories of happiness which define our pursuit of it, namely: Source
- Hedonism Theory: A happy life maximizes feelings of pleasure and minimizes pain. A happy person smiles a lot, is ebullient, bright eyed and bushy tailed. Pleasures are intense and many. Pains are few and far between. This theory has its contagion in Hollywood entertainment and its grossest manifestation in American consumerism.
- Desire Theory: Happiness is a matter of getting what you want. The content of the want is left up to the person who does the wanting. Fulfillment of a desire contributes to one’s happiness regardless of the amount of pleasure or displeasure.
- Objective List Theory: Happiness consists of a human life that achieves certain things from a list of worthwhile pursuits. This list might include career accomplishments, friendship, freedom from disease and pain, material comforts, civic spirit, beauty, education, love, knowledge, and good conscience.
Researchers at Penn State University propose that Authentic Happiness Theory should be the fourth theory of happiness—
- Authentic Happiness Theory: Synthesizes all three traditions, culminating in the Full Life, a life that satisfies all three criteria of happiness.
He who is greedy is always in want.Horace
GREED — Near the top of the list of 7!
- Many of the systems we are part of have reached the level of excessive/maximal complexity. The biggest examples are financial services and energy supply.
- Cost of the complexity is borne primarily by individual consumers.
- Innovation has pushed out the “complexity frontier beyond which the costs exceed the benefits”.
In some cases we do need to revert to or move to simpler ways of doing things. This may be a temporary adjustment, but it would be a recognition of the limits to human capacity. To ignore this is to commit the sin of hubris, and the result of that is always nemesis. Source
Manifest plainness, Embrace simplicity, Reduce selfishness, Have few desires.Lau Tzu
PEOPLE I’M OBSERVING. . .
- Are committing suicide at young ages—Suicide is the second leading cause of death among youth and young adults (15-34 years). Source
- Of all ages, are reaching out for an identity.
- Struggle to live joyously under the weight of daily expectations.
- Are wanting a singular silver bullet that will heal their bodies or pocketbooks.
I see people depending on—
- Advice, hope, and information through Tarot Cards, religion, influencers, and Quora
- Longevity through diets, face creams, and Spanx
- Affirmation of their lifestyle choices through social media quotes.
I wonder where the money comes from for youth to purchase computer games, new cell phones, and twenty squishmallows.
I meet people who struggle with anxiety and confusion because of complex lifestyles. The more complicated life is or becomes, the greater level of frustration and anxiety which can result in uncontrolled anger, violence, rage.
What we value over the short term and long will inevitably become our Want List that will motivate us to make our wants a reality. Our wants and the pursuit thereof are defining our lives, our person, our future. Hopefully, we are left blessed when we reach Life’s final act.
I leave you with words of wisdom from an actor we had the honour of doing a film with:
The only two things you can truly depend upon are gravity and greed.Jack Palance
.. “Welcome to hell!” A visible shudder ripples through my aunt’s shoulders… The train of passengers, privileged and otherwise, trudges in the rain through a corridor of guards with machine guns… Finn leans back in his chair. The acrobatic cigarette once again flips through its moves in his left hand while his right hand thumb flicks the lighter on and off. “Knives are quick, noiseless, and convenient to carry. Those guys were in and out of there before anyone would have noticed that she was slain.”… Four footsteps. I sense a presence next to me… the smell of onions and garlic… the bureau drawer sliding open… a gentle touch on my shoulder slipping down my arm… cold fingers placing something soft into my hands… It’s when she mounts the rostrum that I see her four-inch stilettos, daggers to be sure, transporting her naked, unshaven legs…
Zita Anders spends her summer vacation visiting her father in one of the former Soviet republics of Central Asia where she experiences the poverty, corruption, and perversion that rake the newly independent nation her father has come to call home. ROSE IN A BROKEN BOTTLE is Zita’s account of the people, their land, and their hardships, of the fear and scourge, of the beauty and joy in a country that is so very broken. Her narrative is about the hope and loving relationships that emerge midst that brokenness. Inspired by a true story. | Analynn Riley is a Canadian author. BUY IT HERE
I extend my gratitude to the wonderful Pixabay artists who freely share their talents!
Thanks for visiting!
Learn MORE —
Simplicity & Complexity Theories
Complexity Bias & 3 Ways To Beat It: https://development-academy.co.uk/news-tips/complexity-bias/
Life is Complicated and That is Good: https://www.aier.org/article/life-is-complicated-and-that-is-good/
The simplicity principle in perception and cognition: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5125387/
How to spot counterfeit product: https://www.wikihow.com/Spot-Counterfeit-Products