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Blue Lion's Lair

Hunting for Answers and Devouring the Issues

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Category: What do I want?

Last time, I started to talk about the relationship between the questions “Who am I?” and “What do I want?”.  I stated that it’s important for us to know the answers to “Who am I” before we start answering “What do I want”.  When we are children, we get away with only caring about what we want.  That’s OK, because part of our parent’s job in raising us is for them to teach us the types of answers that make sense when you are thinking about who we are.  However, once we become responsible for ourselves (as good a working title for an adult as I can think of), we no longer have that luxury.  Yes, we may get away with it for a while before things go bad in our lives, but not thinking about the type of person we are puts us on a dangerous path.

Let me give you some examples we see on TV and in the movies all the time.   First is the person who becomes addicted to some drug (think Requiem for a Dream).  Now most people don’t think of themselves as evil or willing to hurt themselves or other people.  But they either forget about the type of person they think they are and let their want for the drug rule their lives, or worse, they let the want for the drug change who they are.  They go and steal from others, or attack others, or sell their own bodies to get money for the drug.  These people don’t go down this path all at once, but slowly and painfully.   Now I know the drugs we are talking about are physically and psychologically addictive, but someone who stayed true to who they were would likely not let themselves fall into the trap of addiction to begin with (assuming they believe that hurting themselves or others are bad things).  Also, even an addicted person has to at some point “remember” who they are (or at that point, who they want to be) for them to even seek out help or have that help be effective.  They have to replace the want of the drug with the want to be who they are/were.  This is because, in order to live a good life, we need to make sure that who we are always drives the what we want train.

The other clichè example is the man or woman who is tempted to cheat on their spouse (let’s use Poison Ivy – The New Seduction as the example since it fits and Jaime Pressly is not only hot, but cool :-)).  The man or woman most likely thinks of themselves as trustworthy and faithful, but when they are presented with an extremely attractive (BTW, attractiveness can be physical, mental or emotional in the REAL world) member of the opposite sex that for some reason wants to have sex with them, they find they are tempted.  I would put forward that the person who puts what they want at the moment ahead of who they are is more likely to have an undesirable outcome from the affair, with Fatal Attraction being the worst case scenario.  The person who makes sure the honest, trustworthy person they are inform what they want will realize that the temporary infatuation has the distinct potential to ruin what they really want; their life with their spouse and family.  They will resist the temptation.   A good example of this is the movie Playing By Heart with Sean Connery.  He plays Paul and his wife, Hanna is played by Gena Rowlands.  Near the end of the movie, which is the only part of the movie the Blue Lion has seen the following dialog takes place:

Hannah: And you really didn’t sleep with her?
Paul: No, of course not.
Hannah: And – you didn’t want to sleep with her.
Paul: Oh, God, yes.

For some reason, this scene always stuck with me and Connery hits the comedic note perfectly, but it shows a person “evolved” enough to let who he was make sure what he wanted didn’t make him do something against who he was.

If you’re starting to think of this blog as an Everything I Ever Learned, I Learned at the Movies sort of thing, that might have at least a grain of truth.  While the examples I give will not be exclusively, or even primarily, from the the movies, it will be a common occurrence.  The Blue Lion looks for truth in many different places.  Ironically, there is much truth to be found in works of fiction.  Truth about human nature, the nature of good and evil, even truths of philosophy and God can be found in fictional works.  That is why many of them are created.  If you don’t like my examples, let me know your own.  Comments are certainly encouraged.

So, now that I’ve fully explained the order in which we need to answer these two questions, next time I’ll address Who the Blue Lion is.  Until then, good hunting.

First Two Questions Overlayed on Maslow's Hierarchy

First Two Questions Overlayed on Maslow's Hierarchy

You know, it’s a real shame.  What is the very first question we all learn to ask?  Of course, it’s “What do I want?”  From the very moment we come out of the womb we start to ask for something we want.  We cry because we are hungry.  We cry because we are wet.  We cry because we are tired and want to be rocked to sleep.  In fact, it might be said that the only thing we do is ask (cry) for things we want, except when we don’t want anything.

As we get a little older, we learn to talk a little and immediately start telling mama and dada what we want in a little more detail.  This makes it a little easier for mama and dada, and they comply by giving us most of the things we ask for.  Granted, at this stage in our lives, we only really want the things we need to survive and be comfortable.  Those familiar with Maslow’s Needs Hierarchy will see that we only really seem to want the needs that pertain to the lowest two levels, which I call the survival and comfort levels.  As we get a little older, say pre-school age, we really start to get into the third level, the relationship level.  As you can see from the chart, up until this point in our lives, we are only addressing the question “What do I want?”  That’s OK, while we are children, but when we are adults, it’s another story.

The problem is that once we become adults the first question we need to be asking ourselves is “Who am I?”  Unfortunately, we’ve been very well trained to ask “What do I want?” and not well trained in asking “Who am I?  This is where Maslow breaks down.  His theory is that you can only move on to the next higher level of need after all the ones below it are fulfilled.  Unfortunately, it’s all too easy for many people to get stuck in the comfort/survival levels constantly trying to fulfill an unfulfillable need.  What do I mean by that?  Look at the chart.  Don’t we all know people who are wasting their lives in the pursuit of food, sex, recreational drugs, money ( a proxy for all the other “needs” we can buy), or companionship?  These are people who either haven’t yet answered, or have an inadquate answer to the question of “Who am I?

I’ve already given a metaphysical answer for “Who am I?” that works for me and informs the more prosaic answers to that question.  I believe that answering the question of “Who am I?” is the single largest pursuit of our lives.  John Ondrasik, the man behind Five for Fighting has it exactly right in his song The Riddle in the lyric that goes:

There’s a reason for the world.

Who am I?

How should we answer the question?  Clearly, I’m not talking about our name.  That doesn’t answer it.  We need to understand what traits we will value as we lead our lives.  More on this and how it interacts with “What do I want?” next time.