12 November, 2008

I Want v/s I Need .......

How the whole fact had not really struck me all along, is a question in itself.

Or maybe, at a subconscious level it had indeed registered but had not been upgraded to the conscious mind. Hence, it probably must have been around in my subconscious mind – idly sauntering, taking a rather leisurely walk.

The whole thought process began when Appu’s latest project assignment came in from school. It was a project wherein the concept was “recycling and reusing” and one where the children had to use their mind creatively.

They had been asked to imagine a scenario wherein each one of them is stranded on an island. There is no one else on the island except for that one child. The island has trees and fresh water. Nothing else. At first glance, though this solves the problem of drinking water and food, there is absolutely nothing else on the island for them to make their lives comfortable or try and get off the island. While taking a walk along the island, each child comes across one flipper, 2 bottles, a broken ship mast, a fishing net with a hole in it. And they need to think as to how they could use these items to make their life more comfortable on the island.

For the past week or so, there have been countless thoughts put forth, there have been discussions between the children over telephone and countless brainstorming sessions on the school bus – on the way to school and while on the way back from school. Appu has been through 3-4 drafts on paper as to how these things could be used to make her life more comfortable on the island.

It was just yesterday, as she was sitting with me and discussing this in length, that the penny dropped.

While I was going through the drafts that she’d prepared, she was also telling me about the discussions that the kids have been having in the school bus on this project. Through it all, one factor stood out. It could not be ignored. It was right there. Bang in front of the eye, yet had failed to register all along. It brought to light a fact that holds true with many people through this globe. Especially children. The up and coming generation.

None of the kids had focused on the fact that first and foremost what they needed to do was work towards the bare essentials. e.g You need to protect your feet – you need footwear, albeit makeshift. You need to sleep and for that you need some sort of makeshift bed or mattress or some such. You need to have fire – for protection from animals at night and maybe also to cook raw food. You need to have a shaded place where you could protect yourself from the sun. You needed to use leaves and bark to make yourself some makeshift clothes cos it has to be assumed that when one is stranded on an island, one does not get stranded with multiple changes of clothes.

All these and many many more – which are the basic essentials. Which led me to wonder as to how and why these basic essentials had not figured in any of their discussions. It led me to wonder as to how they could have missed out on these necessary requirements. It made me think – for this was one of those questions that just would not go away. The answer, when it did come to mind, was rather simple.

These children have not come across any situation that has required them to think or question the possibility that the basic necessities of life would not be available for them. Right from the time their minds were capable of registering their surroundings, right from the time awareness and the concept of self has set in in them, the basic essentials have always been there for the taking. There has been no dearth, there has been no scarcity. They’ve never had to think twice about whether there was going to be food on the table, whether there was going to be a roof over their heads, whether there was going to be someplace where they could relax, whether they would have something to spread on the floor and lie down and sleep on, whether they would have fresh water to drink, whether they would have footwear to slip on their feet before they got on the road.

The list, come to think of it, is endless. The problem for these children, if at all one does exist in present days, is the problem of plenty.

And this brings one to the age old question of Want v/s Need !

What or how much is it that we actually Need ? Honestly speaking, needs are relatively few. We don’t “need” most of the stuff that we actually end up accumulating over a period of time. We don’t “need” the fancy gadgets that we surround ourselves with. The kids don’t “need” as many toys as they have :).

So then, why do we have so much of stuff in our homes ? Why do we have so much of stuff inside our minds ? Why do we carry around so much of baggage ?

Funnily enough, we do all the above and much more because of the factor called “want”.

Human beings never cease to “want” something or the other. It is omnipresent, it is universal and it pervades the conscious human mind like nothing else does. It is this “want” factor that creates so much of clutter – in our living space as well as our minds.

And when we are such living examples feeding heavily on the theory of “want” rather than “need” – is it any surprise that our children too fail to see the necessity to differentiate between a “want” and a “need” ?

It's a mystery to me;
We have a greed, with which we have agreed.
You think you have to want more than you need.
Until you have it all, you won't be free.
~ Eddie Vedder : From the song "Society"

How does one lay stress on the fact, how does one try and inculcate in children an awareness, how does one explain to children the necessity to differentiate between a “need” and a “want”.

How does one get them to appreciate the difference between a need and a want when we, as adults, as their role models, fail to – more often than not.

How does one get children to grasp the gravity of the situation while dealing with a "problem of plenty", while we, as adults, tend to discount the very same "problem of plenty" when it comes to us – more often than not.

As Chuang Tzu, a Chinese philosopher once wrote,

"He who considers wealth a good thing can never bear to give up his income; he who considers eminence a good thing can never bear to give up his fame. He who has a taste for power can never bear to hand over authority to others. Holding tight to these things, such men shiver with fear; should they let them go, they would pine in sorrow."

If human desires are endless, if human “wants” are endless – will not our worries, our qualms our uncertainties be endless too ?

Is this not a vicious circle created, tended to and fueled by us, the human race ?

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9 voice(s) said so:

Aditi's Album said...

Wow. You have as always wonderully mentioned about the 'plenty' concept that the younger gen. take for granted. While thing sh ave always been better than the previos gens, for the next - this is the stage when everything is in plenty and hence never is the 'need' to think about not having them.
Very nice reading...

Neera said...

Well I am not surprised Gauri. Having been a teacher myself, remarks from students when on a 3 day long confidence bldg camp away from home, like "I miss my servants!"; "Lets stock up on colas and chips" after being kept away from them for a couple of days speaks volumes. And this from kids from reasonably good families!

What were the things kids at Appu's scl coming up with?

And yes the question baffles me no end - where to draw a line and how? Did a post a while back on similar lines


choxbox said...

absolutely right gauri.

on our recent visit to an orphanage thats the thing that got reiterated - it is bare essentials that is all we NEED. the rest is all WANTS.

Mama - Mia said...

aguri, i think in our hearts and heads we KNOW which is a need and what is a want! but i guess over a period of time we ddont realise that the want is turning into a need simply because of our total dependence on it!

i mean we NEED internet today and feel helpless without our cell phones!

so then begins the next level. now that cell phone is established as a need want becomes a fancier phone!

it is indeed a vicious cycle.

i guess the only way to teach the kids is to inculcate restraint even when you can have everything and showing them the lives of less privileged along with having aheart to share the plenty that they have.

lovely post yet again!



karmickids said...

Very interesting post Gauri. And an issue I grapple with all the time with the brat. He never needs. He always wants. He needs to learn the difference.

Nat said...

you know - thats a lot of fodder to discuss with my little ones you gave me.

Cynthia said...

Gauri, thanks for following my blog!

dipali said...

Very profound, Gauri!

Suma said...

I think this stage comes in every parents life...I remember writing on this too...

it is something we always emphasize with the kids but somewhere we too are examples of this culture, as you rightly said...

and in a different context its also true that wanting something creates a motivation to get it...the issue now is in wanting something beneficial...

a much needed post, gauri and well written as always...