The Hunger Games Are Real
This week I watched a movie about killing people. Actually, it was more about the instinct to survive. As I sat there gobbling down buttery popcorn drenched in powdery granules of artificial cheese, something began to rise up in me. Not heartburn, which would come later. This time it was anger. Watching children hunt each other as a sick and twisted game should have been the most upsetting part of, The Hunger Games, but for me, it was something else. As the contestants of the Hunger Games ride into the center of the Capital, throngs of brightly colored pedestrians adorned in lavish garments walk around talking and laughing as if all is right with the world. They looked silly with their artificial eyelashes, dyed hair, and gaudy outfits. They probably think they look good. I can just see it, one of them getting up in the morning, painting their face, color coordinating their eyeliner with their nail polish and feeling proud of their creative ability to make such contrasting colors look good, even artistic. All the while, large cities of people far outside their district are too concerned about how to find food to worry about their makeup, much less afford it even if they wanted to. Those people make me sick, I thought, until I realized that I was no different.
Instinct theory argues that people try to survive, and that any quality that increases survival will eventually become genetically based. Read that line again, and this time focus on the words, any quality. The desire to improve my quality of life is sometimes so compelling, that I wonder if it is genetically encrypted in my DNA to continue trying to improve it, long after the fear of threat is gone. Maybe that is why I feel like I need Pottery Barn’s mercury lamp on page 41 of their summer catalogue to survive! When does the survival instinct go away? Never. This leads me to my next conclusion, we are like Beavers.
Beavers devote a lot of time to building and maintaining their dams. The dam traps water flowing downstream. Behind the dam, a pond forms. The pond is still and deep—the perfect place for a beaver home. The pond is also a place to store food and to hide from enemies (http://animals.howstuffworks.com/mammals/beaver-info2.htm). A beaver’s desire to build a dam is very instinctive. Beavers in captivity will build useless dams just so they can build. (http://www.globio.org/glossopedia/article.aspx?art_id=28) I can picture myself walking up to a beaver in our local zoo and saying, “Excuse me…” but he wouldn’t respond because he is so busy building his useless dam. So I would say even louder, “Excuse me! You can stop working so hard to build that dam. You are wasting your time. You are safe here. The zookeepers will bring you food every day and all of the other animals are locked in cages just like you.” But it doesn’t matter how safe and well fed the beaver is, he will just keep working to build and improve his dam, just like me.
It is not enough that I have a large home, granite countertops, and berber carpet, I want more. I always do. Eventually when a person gets to the point where they have their house just the way they want it, then they elevate to seasonal decorating. Instead of just having nice bedding, throw pillows, and floral arrangements, now they can afford to have these same items for Spring, Summer, and Fall! I think I just threw up a little bit in my mouth. Swallow, because I must keep improving, building, and making my home a better place. After I am done with my home, if I am truly evolved, then I will begin working on myself, according to Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs.
1) physiological - these include the need for food, water, and other vital components of life. If these needs are not met, the organism can't survive. Thus, these are the most basic and important.
2) safety and security - these needs refer more to the long term survival than day to day needs. Humans tend to seek out order and have a desire to live in a world that is not filled with chaos and danger. As a result, they seek out stable lives with careers, homes, insurance, etc.
3) belongingness and love - after obtaining a safe environment to live and establishing some long term plans, people seek out love and affection from family members, friends, and lovers.
4) esteem - at this level, people become concerned with self-esteem which may be based on achievements that they earn, recognition from others for jobs they do, etc.
5) cognitive - needs at this level are based on acquiring knowledge and understanding of the world, people, behavior, etc. If you are in college to learn (not simply to get a degree) then you are attempting to fulfill your cognitive needs.
6) aesthetic - aesthetic needs include beauty and order in life. Getting your life in order may provide a sense of comfort that people often lack. In addition, spending time finding and observing beauty in the world becomes an option and a desire as people do not have to struggle and fight to stay alive.
7) self-actualization - this is the highest and most difficult level to reach. In fact, according to Maslow, very few people actually reach this level. Self-actualization is the need to fulfill one's own potential. As Maslow stated, "What a man can be, he must be." Interestingly, Maslow indicated that people will be frustrated if they can't pursue their true loves and talents. For example, if a person has a talent for painting, but they become a doctor, they will be forever frustrated because the need for self-actualization will be hindered. http://www.alleydog.com/101notes/mot-emot.html#ixzz1qLOUY4LC
All the while I choose not to look at the problems outside of my own border as another form of self preservation. One hour of the news will send me jumping head first off the Brooklyn Bridge shouting, “All hope is lost!”, convinced that the world is an evil place full of dangerous criminals and insurmountable challenges without solutions. This tender heart can’t take that much sadness in one day. However, I can stop pretending that it doesn’t exist. The problem is not that I don’t want to look at it. I can’t look at it, without drowning in the kind of depression that leads straight to the psychiatric ward. The problem is that I have chosen to go on living as if there isn’t one. Like those colorful people in the Hunger Games, I walk around enjoying the abundance around me, thanking God for all I have, and always looking for ways to make life better- for me.
I propose an 8th level to Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs; others-actualization- this is the new highest and most difficult level to reach. In fact, according to God, very few people actually reach this level. Others-actualization is the need to fulfill another’s potential. As God stated, “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.” Interestingly, God indicates that people who strive for material wealth will be frustrated because they can’t take these things with them to heaven.
Sounds a little preachy doesn’t it? Sorry, I’m not preaching to you, I’m preaching to myself. Telling other people to consume less and give more will never work. Reading that verse like I had so many times before didn’t work either, because I can’t see myself for what I am, rather for what I want to be. I had to sit in a dark room in front of a big screen and see in other people what I couldn’t see in myself in order to realize how silly I must look. I picture God and his angels sitting around munching on popcorn and sipping on Diet Coke, watching my life like a movie on the big screen, and thinking to themselves, “She looks so silly with her artificial eyelashes, dyed hair, and gaudy outfits; Proud of herself for putting together such an artistic ensemble! She thinks she looks good. All the while people far outside her borders are suffering and she doesn’t even notice.” Until now…