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When the Line Between Basic Needs and Wants Become Blurred

Updated on December 18, 2014

People have different views of exactly what "need" means. We live in such a materialistic world that the line between need and want becomes blurred.

Once upon a time, need was simply having food in our bellies, clothing to protect us from the elements, and shelter from whatever nature throws our way. This is a time before money and the illusion of needing more influenced society. Now most people have more bills than they can afford. They compete to have more than their neighbor does. In turn they tend to work longer and harder, yet still feel tired and empty in the end. Many times they try to convince themselves that they are providing a better life for themselves and their families, but they don't have time to enjoy what they have accumulated. So what is the point of competing for more material wealth?

It is more difficult to survive in the 21st century that it was a couple of hundred years ago. Life was fairly simple then. As money became increasingly more important and well meaning inventors began inventing ways to "make life easier", life began to get more complicated. Although it is nice to have things such as electricity, telephones, televisions, and more, we shouldn't have to need these things to survive. Humanity survived long before these things came about. Now you can't cook without utilities, not to mention Child Protective Services would swoop in to confiscate your children if you didn't have utilities. I guess this means our ancestors were bad parents.

Food is another issue. We used to grow our own foods and hunt for meat. Now people are so reliant upon grocery stores. In fact, recently when a city lost its power due to a storm. All of the grocery stores were shut down for about a week. This sent many people into a panic. Most of them no longer had a food source.

Growing your own food is much cheaper than your grocery bill; it's healthier too. However, it isn't as easy to do in the 21st century. A bill has passed, via Executive Orders, allowing the US government to seize any farm or even small homesteads in times of need or as they deem fit. Some states and cities have gone a step further by making it illegal to grow your own food in your yard.

Even still, I was saddened recently to find out that even the government has the right to determine how our food is grown. In fact, Monsanto has patented most seeds making it practically illegal to save seeds and grow food from these saved seeds. The harass farmers all the time, requiring farmers to buy new seed each season instead of using the seed they have collected from crops.

Also, with the FDA requiring more additives, chemicals, and hormones to be added to our food supply, it is no wonder why there is an increase in illness and disease. We are getting to an age where the simple needs in life are more complicated to achieve. This makes my heart heavy with despair. I wonder what is in store for future generations. Our basic needs are being replaced by a modern society's illusion of what is necessary.

Today it appears that one's self worth is based upon how much you own not by who you are as individual. Stop and think for a moment. Is your new high-tech phone or big, flat-screen television more important than your family or humanity in general? Upon your death there will be squabbles over your belongings. This is because we as a society have been programmed to be greedy.

As I sat outside to write this originally, I was staring into the woods. I could hear the birds happily chirping away. I stopped to watch them and realize how uncomplicated their life is. Their needs are basic just as ours are or should be. They are only concerned with food, socialization, and shelter when the need arises. Even still, some birds are solitary and happy being as such. I watch how blissful these birds are in their freedom. How happy are you throughout your day as you work to earn the money to hopefully feed and provide for your family? What would happen if you lost your job? Then what would you do? Life shouldn't be this complicated.

Clothing is another issue. We all need clothing, but how much is too much? We really don't need a small store of clothing to survive. We have become a gluttonous society. Even housing has changed. The bigger the house, the better is the attitude. Of course people need a larger house, so they will have room to house all of the things that aren't actually a necessity.

My suggestion to anyone reading this is to simplify your needs. Teach your children to simplify their needs. Everything else is a luxury and should be appreciated as it comes. Understand that life isn't about high-tech devices or how much you have accumulated in your possession. It is about basic essentials of having enough food to survive, clothes on your back, and shelter from the forces of nature. Not everyone has these things. People are dying because most people do not care about anyone else but themselves. They would much rather buy a hot tub than help out someone who is starving or has no shelter at all. I pray daily that more people of the world will wake up to this. As much money that has been handed out in stimulus packages, it could have fed and provided shelter to many people across the nation. The problem is, many people can't distinguish between a need and a want.

© 2014 L Sarhan


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    • cfurst profile image

      Christina Furst 

      5 years ago from Colorado

      Linda, thank you for such an insightful article. I remember being in Haiti in 2004 and one of the women I had visited for years in a town called Maissade asked me a question. She asked, "Christina, do you find it hard to serve God with all that stuff in your way"? In reflection, she had never been outside of her village in her 90 years of life nor seen a television, mall, concert, etc. My point is as simple as your article in that we need only what God gave us in the beginning the rest is wants and desires, which are not bad but can be idols if one allows. Simplification is the key! Giving and serving others always keeps one’s life in perspective. Thank you again for writing this article.

    • LindaSarhan profile imageAUTHOR

      L Sarhan 

      5 years ago from Huntsville, Alabama, USA

      I also remember when my children were younger that a group of moms would trade their children's gently used clothing that they outgrew with another mom who had children older than theirs. It's a great way to save money and still get one of the basic needs.

    • dahoglund profile image

      Don A. Hoglund 

      5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      I remember when I was a kid during and after WWII when my uncle in Minneapolis had chickens in his backyard. I get most of my clothes from garage sqles and find I have to get rid of things once in a while. Gardening is a good thing to get good food cheaply, however I am not too good at it. I also remember the neighborhood business areas where it was much like a small town and merchants lived in the neighborhood.

    • Venkatachari M profile image

      Venkatachari M 

      5 years ago from Hyderabad, India

      Very good topic. It is very interesting and is the most appropriate topic for our modern lifestyles. People have left naturality and simplicity and adapted to artificial lives and complicated lifestyles. I is very saddening to see them like that. The more they become artificial, the more problems are there. Nobody wants to realise this fact.

      You have done a good job by reminding people to be simple and lead a more happier and healthier life. thanks for sharing it.

      Voted up and interesting.

    • LindaSarhan profile imageAUTHOR

      L Sarhan 

      5 years ago from Huntsville, Alabama, USA

      Right. The article is more on a reflection of the materialistic mindset, but even as a Muslim myself I firmly believe that people should say Alhamdulillah (thanks and praise be to God) for everything. Even now as I type this, we are going through some "tough" times but Alhamdulillah we have food in our stomach, shelter, and clothes. Some people don't even have that, therefore, Allah has still blessed us with the basics to survive.

      In tough times, I remind myself of what Allah said in the Qur'an:

      "But perhaps you hate a thing and it is good for you; and perhaps you love a thing and it is bad for you. And Allah Knows, while you know not." Surat Al-Baqarah 2:216

      I may not be entirely happy with the hardships but Allah has His own reasons and lessons in everything He allows or doesn't allow in our lives.

      Even still the Qur'an says:

      "O mankind, remember the favor of Allah upon you. Is there any creator other than Allah who provides for you from the heaven and earth? There is no deity except Him, so how are you deluded?" Surat Fatir 35:3

      So my faith is in Allah that He will provide for us what we need.

    • m abdullah javed profile image

      muhammad abdullah javed 

      5 years ago

      This is one of the most important topics that we often discuss, basic needs and there fulfillment. You have dealt here from a refreshing angle. I think the material aspect of human is a reality, for them to be spiritual, the religious values play a pivotal role. One has to deal with the material aspects with a clarity of values like, God's pleasure, contentment, avoidance of extravagance, balanced approach towards needs. Selfless service, usage of wealth, charity. If these are taken care off then we we will be able to maintain balance between material and spiritual aspects.

      I enjoyed reading it. Thanks for sharing. Linda. Voted up.

    • peachpurple profile image


      5 years ago from Home Sweet Home

      i think we often couldn't figure out which are needed and which aren't compulsory. Greed must have got into our guilt

    • Deborah Demander profile image

      Deborah Demander Reno 

      5 years ago from First Wyoming, then THE WORLD

      Thank you for your insight. We have become too materialistic in this society.

      Thanks for taking the time to write.


    • profile image

      Howard Schneider 

      5 years ago from Parsippany, New Jersey

      Excellent Hub, Linda and I totally agree with your sentiments. We have become an immensely materialistic society. Our views on what is a need and what is a want are deeply skewed. I agree we need to look within ourselves more for our worth rather than the junk we have accumulated.


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