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On "need" And "want"


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#1 ethernautrix

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Posted 03 January 2013 - 08:03

Reading through this thread, How Many Fountain Pens Do You Need, No, Seriously?, it occurs to me that people will say, "I don't NEED" whatever. But what kind of life is it if all you had was what you strictly, bare-bones needed?

How narrowly do you define "need?"


Sure, maybe having more than several fountain pens goes beyond need into want territory, but what is life without desire? And I'm using that word advisedly, as coming from a culturally Buddhist background, desire (or attachment) is the root of suffering. But without desire, where is progress? Where is motivation?

So what does it mean to you to need?

What would your life look like if all you had was what you strictly needed? And would you be satisfied with that?

Edited by ethernautrix, 03 January 2013 - 08:03.

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#2 JonSzanto

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Posted 03 January 2013 - 08:15

I need oxygen to breath.
I need music in my life.

Same word, both statements true, certainly a variation in use. How deep into the philosophical differences should we delve?
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#3 dickydotcom

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Posted 03 January 2013 - 08:33

Need is a word long since dropped in our household.
It was replaced many years ago by, "I want must have." after I challenged my wife on the need for yet another handbag.
I no longer question her and she actually encourages me if I think about buying a new pen.

Dick D

#4 pajaro

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Posted 03 January 2013 - 08:47

I have used fountain pens since childhood, about 54 years now. Some of the pens are sentimental, about four of them. I want to keep them. I could live without them, though. You only need pens if you have to write something.

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#5 ronw

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Posted 03 January 2013 - 08:56

...what kind of life is it if all you had was what you strictly, bare-bones needed?

...

Sure, maybe having more than several fountain pens goes beyond need into want territory, but what is life without desire? And I'm using that word advisedly, as coming from a culturally Buddhist background, desire (or attachment) is the root of suffering. But without desire, where is progress? Where is motivation?

So what does it mean to you to need?

What would your life look like if all you had was what you strictly needed? And would you be satisfied with that?


Putting it that way, one could go a long way into the philosophy of that word, need. One could start with Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, for example. (Physical/Safety/Love/Esteem/Self-actualization/Self-transcendence)

Which neatly ties in with your question, "What is life without desire?" But one might as well ask, "What is life without self-control?" (At the very least, my wife would like me to answer that question.)

I've lived on the thin edge; I know folks for whom money has never been and will never be an issue. Knowing what I do about the ascetic and the gourmand, I can't even say I know which approach is healthier. Which is the short way of leading up to this: I don't think there's any universality to what constitutes need or desire. I don't think I even have a consistent view of, let alone approach to, either just in my own life. <g>

What I do have is a love for pens. That love is complex. First, I'm a writer. There is an element of inspiration in writing with a great pen, which is enormously valuable to me and comes in early in my personal hierarchy of needs. I wouldn't say I feel safe if I can't express myself; too many explosions start going off in my head and emotions if I am not writing. So at the most primitive level, and keyboards notwithstanding, a pen is a magical, even totemic item in my writing process. It has capabilities that have nothing to do with its physical properties. Posted Image

I also love words, and the real magic for me, the really deep need for pens, is rooted in the way that pens and words interact. English is a language uniquely suited to the conceit (not using it _that_ way, but to mean a unique expression). That comes from a general lack of boundaries: want to create your own word or metaphor? Go ahead.

It is also well-suited to layers of meaning, things that mean more than they say. When I combine that sort of complexity with beautiful words from a pen, I'm pretty much in my personal heaven.

So I've gone all the way from very primitive needs that my pens satisfy (e.g., sanity, mental health, my ability to walk the earth without wanting to lay waste to the heathens, etc.), to transcendent needs that are equally well-served by pens (art (I draw), poetry, fiction, notes to loved ones, journaling). :-)

Perhaps a haiku would do a better, and certainly shorter, job of it:

Bamboo leans with wind,
compelled by a need to sing;
I am the pen's wind.
Ron Wodaski


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#6 JonSzanto

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Posted 03 January 2013 - 08:59

Ron, that was a beautiful reply.
"When Men differ in Opinion, both Sides ought equally to have the Advantage of being heard by the Publick; and that when Truth and Error have fair Play, the former is always an overmatch for the latter."
~ Benjamin Franklin

#7 DanF

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Posted 03 January 2013 - 09:44

Well, a lot of Buddhist monks would say that a life with no possessions can be pretty good. :) The more things you own, the more you have to worry about.

They would also say that it isn't a bad thing to have more than one nice pen, so long as you wouldn't care if you broke, lost, or gave them away tomorrow.

The great Indian sage Sri Ramana Maharshi used to say that an object of desire itself doesn't actually bring joy, what we mistake for joy is merely the cessation of agitation created by our wanting. It's pretty clear that the relief doesn't last very long, until the next want sets in and renews the cycle.

One thing i know for sure is that websites such as this one create a lot of wanting, for me in particular wanting a Nakaya. But would having that Nakaya really make me any happier in the long term? Probably not, and if I lost it or broke it I'd be miserable for a a while, but ultimately the loss would be as temporary as the gain.

Another thing I know for sure is that if I had a choice between a fabulous fountain pen collection and enlightenment, I would choose the latter. Posted Image In the absence of such a deal, I would gladly accept the pen collection as a consolation prize.

What would my life look like if I had only what I truly needed? Would I be satisfied? Probably not now, but that is my goal, to have satisfaction independent of material things.

About progress, taking the long view, If the cost of progress is pollution and global warming, then how great a thing is progress really? In the end, progress will be our undoing as a species, or at least hasten it a good deal. This Earth right now can provide for the entire population's needs, but not it's wants.

Dan

Edited by DanF, 03 January 2013 - 10:25.

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#8 Edwaroth

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Posted 03 January 2013 - 09:47

Ron...Well said, written and done!

Edited by Edwaroth, 03 January 2013 - 09:53.


#9 HDoug

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Posted 03 January 2013 - 10:29

I like questioning why we are into whatever it is we are into. The questions are invitations to gain some kind of insight into ourselves. And "want" and "need" arenʻt all that clearly demarcated either. I can pretty accurately say I need coffee in the morning but it's not like my heart will stop if I donʻt have a cup.

I really like following the people who need every single variation of Lamy Safari ʻcuz I love their rainbow color photos. The idea of a "complete set" seems to drive many, and although I donʻt have a complete set of anything, I somehow understand what thatʻs about and like following along. It's like baseball cards or something I guess, but more interesting (to me).

Saying you need coffee in the morning would be understood by many but saying you need a terracotta Lamy Safari and are willing to pay a multiple of its original price (for a used one) might be regarded with suspicion or incomprehension by most of the people we associate with every day. But itʻs good to question ourselves about our needs and desires.

And it's good to share your answers. Go ahead, youʻre among friends here.

Doug

Edited by HDoug, 03 January 2013 - 10:31.


#10 Chrissy

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Posted 03 January 2013 - 10:32

Need is a word long since dropped in our household.
It was replaced many years ago by, "I want must have." after I challenged my wife on the need for yet another handbag.
I no longer question her and she actually encourages me if I think about buying a new pen.

Dick D

That's probably because she is aware that if you buy a new pen she will be able to buy a new handbag.... :eureka:

#11 Koyote

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Posted 03 January 2013 - 13:09

In economics, we don't even use the terms "need" and "want," since it is impossible to distinguish between them. People simply have demands or desires.

#12 yolrgrand

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Posted 03 January 2013 - 13:40

Food and love

#13 myn

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Posted 03 January 2013 - 13:50

If I take my "needs" to mean those very basic necessities of life; shelter, food, clothing, then my needs are met. The moment I go beyond that, I am into wants. Can I be content with only my needs met . . . yes I can. Does that mean I do not want - absolutely not. I truly do delight in the simple things of life though, like a sunrise, a birdsong, the wind soughing through trees and so on.

If others were to look at my life they would probably say "how boring," but when my eyes open each morning, I'd say that makes it an exciting day. I've been in a position in my life, more then once, where I've lost all my "possessions," (wants) and what I came to realize was that's okay, they are only "things."

Does it make me sad because I lost "my" things? Not anymore, because I realize that the value isn't in the things themselves but in the joy they gave me at the time. That, I will always have with me.

For now I have some wonderful fountain pens. I certainly intend to keep them but if life should have a surprise in store for me, then I will have known the joy and delight of those pens and trust that not too far down the road, I would once again have a pen or three or ten or . . . :rolleyes:

edit spelling error

Edited by myn, 03 January 2013 - 13:58.

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#14 Namo

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Posted 03 January 2013 - 14:09

Need is defined by survival. Other than that, it's a compultion (here, pen compultion). Hear me well: this is not a moral statment, but rather a facual one. Need is not that much a subjective matter.

You talk about desire as a necessity of human life: of course it is. But to say it's necessary to progress and motivation is rather dubious, or at least a cultural bias. "Progress" would have to be defined (wouldn't moral progress try to put a lilit to desire, as both stoïcian and epicurian morals says?), and it's a notion that comes rather late in human history as a positive one.

This being said, there is nothing wrong with desire, as long as you know that these desire are yours and don't make you miserable.

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#15 dickydotcom

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Posted 03 January 2013 - 14:19

Need is a word long since dropped in our household.
It was replaced many years ago by, "I want must have." after I challenged my wife on the need for yet another handbag.
I no longer question her and she actually encourages me if I think about buying a new pen.

Dick D

That's probably because she is aware that if you buy a new pen she will be able to buy a new handbag.... :eureka:

Not necessarily. Sometimes it's shoes or a belt.

Dick D

#16 WOBentley

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Posted 03 January 2013 - 14:32

They would also say that it isn't a bad thing to have more than one nice pen, so long as you wouldn't care if you broke, lost, or gave them away tomorrow.


...I realize that the value isn't in the things themselves but in the joy they gave me at the time. That, I will always have with me.

I really couldn't put it better than this. While I am not quite ready to "give them away" I could be happy without them, and will always have the memories of the enjoyment they have brought.
My interest in pens stemmed from the elegant mechanical simplicity of the device itself and has grown to include the beauty inherent in both the forms and the result of the function. For me that represents significant personal "progress".
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#17 dcpritch

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Posted 03 January 2013 - 14:46

These are great thoughts on a topic worth thinking about. I'm driving my son to the airport later today for his return to college and am eager to discuss with him the things written here.
How small of all that human hearts endure,
That part which laws or kings can cause or cure.

— Samuel Johnson

#18 Eyedoc

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Posted 03 January 2013 - 14:47

This topic really made me think, and the more expansive and complicated my thoughts got, the further away from the question I seemed to be. Then, something drifted up in my mind that took me right back to the start. The start of my married life. "All you need is love" by the Beatles was the last song we played at our wedding. The same has been said in many different ways by many different people, but the essence remains unchanged. Twelve years and three beautiful children later, I really haven't found any greater truth in life.
We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give - Winston Churchill

#19 Paddler

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Posted 03 January 2013 - 14:53

There are some things that you "need" to do that are not necessarily connected to your physical well being. Most people's needs are different in this respect. Some have to ride horses; some must write; some have to play musical instruments; and some must collect pens. You deny yourself these things at your own peril. Literally.
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#20 inkstainedruth

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Posted 03 January 2013 - 14:53

Need is defined by survival. Other than that, it's a compultion (here, pen compultion). Hear me well: this is not a moral statment, but rather a facual one. Need is not that much a subjective matter.


There's an old song (I think done by Judy Collins) that describes this perfectly. Don't remember the name of the song but there's a line that says "Give us bread, but give us roses too".
I think that's what I was trying to articulate last night on the other thread. It's maybe a compulsion, but there is (at least for me, and probably a lot of other people here) this yearning for *more* than just the "necessities" -- and I don't mean in terms of material possessions (the Pokemon-like "gotta get'em all" mindset of a true collector). It's this desire for beauty and creativity and intellectual stimulus. And yes, I would call those "needs" the same way food and sleep are "needs". I think that it's part of the human psyche.
You can write with a ballpoint if you have to write something down. Or you can write it with a fountain pen, in a luxuriously colored ink and experience the joy of making pretty marks on paper. Even if it's just doing the Sunday crossword.
After all -- the cave paintings in Lascoux (sp?) in France could have been stick figures of bison and had the same inherent effect (whether totemic items or merely a record of "this is what we bagged today"). But they're not, are they....
Ruth Morrisson aka inkstainedruth

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