This damned theory, which governs our life plans, assumes that happiness is reached at the top of a pyramid of needs, and, until you get there, you must figure out more immediate problems like food, shelter or safety.
On the basis of this model, a whole set of directions have been set in our society, and, so far, they seem to govern the entire world’s economy and politics. How? Well, to give the simplest example, how about what is social assistance offered for? For food, shelter and heat. Which are exclusively physiological needs.
The truth is than man started from a darn cave. It doesn’t matter all that much what kind of cave, maybe it was a metaphorical “cave” meaning a jungle or an actual European cave, it was a cave. And when we talk about caves, we immediately must consider bears, wolves, rain and storm. This means that indeed we’re ancestrally very occupied with securing these primary factors like food, shelter and heat, yet there is a problem with the sequence that we have imagined to happen inside our selves.
Liberally interpreted, Maslow’s pyramid means that if you’re hungry, you cannot admire the Mona Lisa. It means a disastrous mental model of how to get somewhere in life, a model of fighting and climbing your way to the top, just to get some self actualization, knowledge and discovery.
See the problem?
This pyramid visually indicates scarcity and privilege. Only the few successful and/or chosen ones get authenticity, spontaneity or creativity.
It is not Maslow’s fault anyway. He merely replicated in a drawing an ancient archetype. It is just that the archetype is false, hence the drawing is wrong. This is the archetype that teaches children that only the special ones, the naturally brave and strong, the ones who can follow and lead at the same time, the princes and princesses, the genetically blessed or ancestry supported, only they have the right to get all the good stuff up there in the small triangle at the top of the pyramid, away from the mere mortals.
The problem with this archetype is that it is not based on introspection, like, for example, the archetype of the devil is. The pyramid of needs is an archetype inspired from the hostility of our environment. It is inspired from the harshness of living, where you must fight for survival against limited resources, calamities, uncertainty; that means people saw that life is hard and living basically takes up all your time, and they saw how some people who delegate the work, because their social position allows them to — tribe chiefs, artists, healers, wise elders — have new preoccupations, superior ones, and suddenly have some time for them too. But this is the problem: for an archetype inspired by looking to the outside world, when it is applied to the inside world, then the human nature by effect is violated.
The human nature is violated because, in reality, human needs look like a game of twister, where all the needs are on the same level, a primary, plane and flat level, with the mortal human twisted and tied on top of it, trying desperately to satisfy each one of its needs, and in the proper order.
Self actualization, creativity, morality, lack of prejudice and so on, all of these are not somewhere at the top, waiting for us to climb up to them with our bellies full, warm, surrounded by an army of friends, with private pensions and full of social approval. Nope, they are always with us, always asking the same amount of attention like sex, thirst or the need to breathe.
Man, in its eternal quest for happiness, shall be constantly twisted and turned in satisfying all its diverse needs. The job of society is to make this twister game more logical, more ordered and closer to creatures who happen to only have two arms and two legs.
Society should forget about the damn pyramid and stop from being busy deciding who and when has access to “superior” levels of need.
Because this bamboozle of a theory founded some modern economic theories, another crappy effect spawned out of it: exploitation of the pyramid. This pyramid created a natural model of the crowded top, of limited available space for superior needs, because of the simple fact that the top triangle is so small. Since the number of people on the planet is in a continuous rise, Maslow’s pyramid has today a considerably larger base and a considerably smaller height.
In summary: you have water, but do you have the one bottled from French caves? You have air, but do you have conditioned air? You have food, but do you have lots and lots of it? You have sex, but have you heard of Kama Sutra? See, you become so busy with those “basic needs” which exponentially diversify, that you require way more than one life to get to the other needs. This is also happening for “superior” levels of need too: you have a job, but do you have a corner office? You have love, but do you have extreme romanticism worthy of Notting Hill? You see, it never ends.
That’s it! I for one am ready to say, forget Maslow, everything is basic.
Hunger and love, metaphysics and sex, thirst and insurance, friends and acceptance. All at the same time, there is nothing sequential either about happiness itself, or in obtaining it.
Stop living life step by step, because you’re simply placing yourself in line for happiness, when in reality happiness is at the self service across the road. This is made worse by the fact that after waiting in line a whole lifetime, in the end you can only buy a tomb, because they’ll be out of happiness by the time your turn finally came.
So don’t forget, everything is basic, want everything! To put it more esoterically: the keys of the kingdom are taken, not given.