Thursday, March 08, 2007

Maslow for all...

All humans have a hierarchy of needs ranging from basic to spiritual. Abraham Maslow knew a thing or two about this, and came to refer to the complex nature of our higher needs as self-actualization. As he saw it, our needs are best understood in terms of a pyramid structure with the basics at the foundation and the higher needs at the apex. Among the highest of all needs is having a strong sense of purpose in life. Makes sense.

Now I would argue that there is something similar going on across the entire animal kingdom. All living organisms aspire to make the most of their lives on earth, whether consciously or by biological programming. An elk can not type and a fruit bat makes a lousy investment banker, but this makes them no less engaged in the theater of life than we humans are. Non-humans are simply less interested in "becoming" and more interested in fulfilling their biological destiny as part of the larger biome. Non-human mammals in particular seem content with a simple purpose: to own their position in the food chain. There is an inherent dignity to this ownership and you can see it by looking in a lion's eye or a mouse's. From our perspective, we might say that there are pluses and minuses to every slot on the food chain. However, an animal is happy to kill for food and happy to be killed for food as long as it is in accordance to the balance sheet of nature.

With great power comes great responsibility. Here at the top of the food chain, we owe it to all the other "rungs" to behave in accordance to the balance sheet of nature. To respect the needs of all living creatures. I think we've lost all sense of what that might possibly mean. We are blinded by the magnificent sheen of our own godlike creation: civilization. I'm no Luddite, and of course, there's no going back. Progress is the name of the game. The question for today is what portion of our resources and our imaginations will we dedicate to defining and discovering balance?

("Plier Food Chain" photo from Make Magazine)


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