Consider This...

What really matters and why? Why even ask this question? It seems to me that things don't matter without someone there to make them matter. Does a rock matter? Does it matter to you? What does the question even mean? Can something matter and be without purpose? It seems that it can because the idea that something may matter is in itself a purpose. So when we ask "why am I here?", there may be no purpose but it may matter that you are here. My life may matter to someone that I don't even know. They may know me, or of me, or know a friend of mine and through that friend have connection to me such that somehow I matter to them.

I suggest that nothing really intrinsically matters, but that we all matter. We all matter because we all are interdependent and therefore depend on others that we may not even know. We depend on those who provide us with the food that we no longer know how produce. We depend on systems that we don't even understand to provide telephone, banking, healthcare and we even depend on the millions of bodily cells that we call our body. So it begins to become clear that pretty much everything matters somehow and therefore everything has some sort of purpose.

I find myself asking questions such as "why am I here?", "what is my purpose?", and "what is the purpose of this world that I live in?" Maybe those are questions that will not achieve the goal that may lie beneath the surface that is causing me to ask such questions. Maybe what I'm really trying to find the answer to is "what am I to do with my life?" I may really want to understand the "whys" and "purposes" so that I can better understand what it is that I should be doing. So the questions are geared toward understanding something outside of my own self that has an idea about what I am to do with my life. Otherwise the question would be "what purpose do I wish to create?" It is up to us to choose what we believe with regard to whether or not there is an outside agency who has such an answer. Ultimately we must choose what we will believe.

Maybe a better question would be, "Since I am here, since I do matter, what shall I do that fulfills me in terms of a sense of doing the right thing that will provide to my needs." At least we can then look within ourselves to find what it is that we feel that we need. Certainly our own needs are relevant. We all matter and therefore we all at least have the purpose of being here for those that we matter to, regardless of the degree or even whether or not we know of anyone who we matter to. We each are here and therefore in one way or another, we matter in some way to someone else that is also here. This may not be a great reason to live for those whose lives are filled with despair, but it is a worthy reason to live.

But I'm not trying to make the case for just existing. I'm trying to make the case for something much better. I'm trying to make the case for self empowerment and self needs that are seen in the light of wisdom. I'm suggesting that we all matter and that we have no purpose imposed upon us, or at least if we do, it will not be found by pondering the words of others, such as these. It will be found by pondering one's self and one's own needs in the light of one's own current understanding to the life they are intimately involved in.

We each matter somehow. It's not enough for me to know that. My need is to feel happy and abundant and that my life has more meaning than just that I matter to the world somehow. I know that I do matter, therefore I know that I do have a purpose which is to live. But I must also be happy to some degree. It's what will make me happy that I seek.

Anatomy of Happiness - Wanting and Needing
Perhaps we should first consider whether being happy is a worthy goal. Were I to design a universe, I would make happiness a foundational ingredient. I would design life so that happiness was what motivated life to go forward. Happiness would be a primary goal that would never dry up and diminish. That is certainly a prime goal in the lives I am aware of. But I've noticed that sometimes we don't feel that it's a worthy goal. I'm aware of schools of thought that feel that happiness is not spiritual and that a dispassionate existence is the wiser goal. Some say that suffering is spiritual.

Perhaps it's not happiness that we even feel that we are pursuing. Maybe it's just the satisfaction of a basic need. For some it is the simple need of satisfying an aching belly that will create great joy. From this we can see that happiness comes from satisfying needs. There are needs that are essentially requirements for life and there are needs that are the result of wants. We could say that wants are needs. We could also say that needs are really big wants. We could claim that we don't need everything that we want, but then who is to say where we draw the line between wanting and needing?

It's easy to find reasons to believe that happiness is not spiritual. Happiness that is gained through the hurting of others certainly has it's drawbacks. When one understands how it feels to suffer, it is difficult to be aware of the suffering of others, let alone be the cause of that suffering. Money has been used as the means to achieving happiness. The acquisition of material things being the generator of happiness. For some, happiness is more the absence of fear. In that case, money becomes the means of lessening that fear.

For some there is the need to take action that may not even be understood, because they have lost touch with their own inner workings. We may be driven towards something and not be fully understand why we feel that we need it. The accumulation of buried needs can intermix with other buried needs and become distorted into needs that are also distorted. Such needs are like a mixture of paints that no longer resemble the original colors but have turned dark and muddy. It becomes more difficult to find the origin of those original needs just as it becomes difficult to find the original colors that mixed together over the years.

I believe that it is because of such poorly understood wants and needs that wanting and needing have in some circles become diminished in their stature and are even considered to be indicators of weakness. Such terms as "wanting" or "needing" have become expressions of distaste. But in essence they are the basis of what drives life. Flowers "need" soil, water, and sunlight. They are not less because they need. Neediness is not a state of lesser status. It is a state of being that calls forth that which "needs" to give. We may want or need apples and someone else may have too many apples and want or need to give them away. Wanting and needing is the basis of life. Let no one tell you differently. But wanting and needing are not necessarily to be associated with pain and suffering.

I want chocolate ice cream. I will be happy with chocolate milk. I may even be happier with a glass of milk. So we see that there are degrees of wanting and needing. It seems that the greater the want or need, the greater the resulting joy. So we could say that wants and needs lead to the experience of joy and happiness. We can see why the Buddha suggested that we learn to not desire. Using different words, learn to not want and need. Buddha seems to be operating from the premise that wanting and needing, when strong enough and unfulfilled, lead to suffering. No wants and needs means no suffering. That certainly is one approach.

But wanting and needing are an expression of who we are at that moment. I don't mind wanting and needing. I don't want to give them up. I exist and therefore I will encounter that which is to my liking or not to my liking. What is not to my liking could be said to be something that I don't want, which is a want in itself. I want what I like and not what I don't. This is very simple and undeniable. I believe that Buddha was pointing in a direction to give a means for a suffering person to begin to improve his life. Much like telling a child not to ride his bicycle in the street because he will get hurt by a car. A child will grow into an adult and will understand better how to avoid getting hit by a car while riding his bicycle in the street. The adult would not be unwise for riding in the same street that the child was asked to avoid. So we are learning to ride our bicycles more effectively and where we choose without getting injured. We are learning to want and need and satisfy those wants and more effectively.

Effectively Satisfying Wants and Needs
What does it mean to effectively satisfy wants and needs? When we fully understand our needs, we have a better means of understanding how best to satisfy them. One means of looking at this issue is to divide our wants and needs into those that have had time to observe and those that are more immediate and spontaneous in nature.

Wants and Needs observed over time
Given time, we begin to see patterns in our lives, how we tend to do things and how things seem to work. We see that some solutions to our wants and needs only cause other related difficulties. Sometimes the results of our satisfying our wants and needs are well worth the satisfaction of those needs and sometimes the cost is too great. Trial and error are good companions in this step to understanding what works best for us. Eventually we all come to understand that hurting others to satisfy our own needs doesn't give us lasting results. I think this is the area that many people are learning about.

We can see it best by observing children and how they choose to respond to their own wants and needs. Cheating on a test may satisfy the need to get a good grade on a test, but that method eventually fails and proves too costly in terms of both learning the material and in the consequences of being caught. Looking back at my own childhood I can see those areas that I do differently now. It's the nature of children to grow up. Trial and error have served to help us understand how to respond more effectively. These are wants and needs observed over time.

There is one fine point to be made here. Time is a fundamental aspect of learning by trial and error. It's quite a good way to learn. It is even a better means of learning when we pay attention to understanding our wants and needs while we are in the midst of one of those potential trial and errors. I'm suggesting that we remember that with each encounter in life we are also in the process of learning about ourselves, specifically our wants and needs and the resulting motivation that is propelling are actions at any given time. This is one means of greater self awareness. We are then at the helm of who we are as we make our way through each encounter with life. In this way we can make better choices.

Close Page and return to Musings Main Page