What is the border between need and pleasure? Our activities arise from needs. Even our interaction with the world follows this path. Everywhere around us, we leave imprints of our needs. It seems like a normal thing.
And, in fact, there is nothing wrong in needs. In this way, life goes on: we nourish ourselves, we dress, children are born. But there are different types of need. Sixty years ago, Abraham Maslov divided them into five groups: physiological, of security, of belonging, of esteem and of self-realization. All of them are fundamental for the growth of a person, yet they have a precise hierarchy.
Maslov presents them as a pyramid, therefore in an orderly manner. Some are more important, other more elementary. In today’s society, especially in the west where everything seems useful to satisfy a need, it is not easy to remember and keep this order. In order to do this, awareness and discipline are necessary.
In the spiritual language one should speak of asceticism, of the art of knowing how to choose well, to subordinate our actions to the objectives that allow us to grow, to be truly and fully happy. Who thinks about the consequences of his choices? Who decides the things he wants to do on the basis of the purpose to pursue? We are too tired, too oppressed by life and we do not have any more the strength nor the desire to take well-reasoned decisions. This leads us always to take the easiest road, which leads to pleasure and to immediate satisfaction.
It is a natural mechanism, but we must ask ourselves, is it truly human? The absence of right choices not only voids our humanity but also takes away our freedom. Think about the social network. The information that we put on our profiles are sent to big companies and this allows them to offer us “tailored” products and services. Without even realizing we become the subject of a veritable bombardment of advertising. In itself there is nothing wrong. But let’s think about when the same mechanism is used to convey fake political or commercial news, before which we are helpless. Closed in our “bubble” made of pleasures and satisfactions we do not notice these fakes, which multiply, affecting our choices and influencing politics.
In the spiritual tradition, the pleasure has always been seen with suspicion: weakening vigilance and prudence. If we miss something we are more attentive and cautious and we can better assess the individual situation with which we confront ourselves. Knowing how to manage our own needs means being able to better withstand the lack of something. And this allows us to remain alert. According to the ancient spiritual masters is precisely this condition of equilibrium to enable us to unite ourselves to God and to reach the fullness of our humanity.
If we want to be completely free and happy we should learn to be more careful in our choices, including the smaller ones. Our time is too complex for us to be naive.