What is Essential?

In John Cage’s “Lecture on Nothing,” we find the following comment: “It is not irritating to be where one is. It is only irritating to think one would like to be somewhere else.” Likewise, we may find that when we are alone, we find ourselves wanting company, but when we are in company, we may find ourselves wanting to be alone.

As we find ourselves now, confined to quarters, advised to advance toward others (nor permit them to advance toward us) no closer that 6 feet, and even then advised it might be a good idea to wear a face mask and gloves and carry a sanitizer, we are reminded of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Once a lower but more essential need is met, we may climb a rung higher on the pyramid until we reach the nirvana of self-actualization.

We must now assume that top rung to have a base of 6 feet, so that there is only room for one person, that one being, of course, one’s self. And to be fully self-actualized means being able to stay home perfectly content with staying home.

But then we find Maslow adding on yet another rung to the top of his hierarchy of needs (even if, in practice, this would mean expanding the original base and subsequently the base of all the other rungs leading up to the top). The new top of the pyramid, reached after self-actualization is achieved, might be described as staying home without staying home, otherwise known as self-transcendence.

All that work on meeting one’s needs only to discover at the top of the climb one leaves one’s self behind. It might be that only by staying home can we come to grips with the differences between our needs and our wants such that we may find our essentials.