...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.
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.