"Undermining my electoral viability since 2001."

Me And Maslow's Pyramid of Human Needs Down By The Schoolyard

I've been contemplating Abraham Maslow's Pyramid of Human Needs a lot lately. He actually called it "the hierarchy of needs," but I like the words Pyramid and Human more; better branding. In any event, it's a really handy idea to have in your toolbox, one of those semi-obvious insights into human nature that's easy to miss, or forget, but never gets old.

Basically, you start at the bottom with your fundamental Physiological needs, starting with the need to breathe, because if you can't breathe or eat or perform certain biological functions, those things more or less take over your existence. That's the bottom line, and most of us first-worlders have it covered, thank goodness. Direct manipulation through the withholding of food and water is rare in our lives.

After that you climb up to the level of Safety. If you don't have a sense of security about yourself and the things you consider yours, be they material, familial, or whatever -- if you're afraid -- you're stuck with that, and you really can't go much further as a human being. Safety is a psychological concept of course (real security is impossible; you can't control rocks in space that might fall on your head or wipe out your species) but it's important for this concept to make its way into your mind, however that happens for you.

For most of us, being in debt, especially "bad debt," can stick us at this level. Sickness definitely pegs us here. Also, this is arguably the level on which a lot of politics operates; overt fear-mongering, appeals to anxieties about "them," the specter of ruin, apocalypse, etc. Unfortunately, when an appeal to this psychological level works, it's very potent.

Assuming you're able to rise above the chains of fear, uncertainty and doubt, you reach the level of Social needs, summarized as:

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Shooting For The Stars

Rolling over the clouds, chasing the sun, looking back at the expanding crescent of the earth's shadow in the sky behind, it hits me all over again.

I'm going to have to find my own way.

And the only way that works is if I've got the pride, ego, confidence, vision or whatever you want to call it to make it happen on my own terms. I spend a lot of time second-guessing myself and guarding against hubris -- a well-known tragic flaw -- but it's too late at this point to hope that some ordained path will mystically arise. I'm not destined to fit into a "career track," too independent (cocky) to go into apprenticeship, and I'm certainly not going to find some guru to hand me down my purpose on a silver platter. That much is clear by now.

My experience as a performer (and with a few other things) has given me a bedrock belief in my power to create moments of sublimity, to temporarily transcend the normal boundaries and limitations of humanity and make contact with the divine. It's real, glorious even, but also ephemeral. You can't live it, although you can do your damnedest live for it, by it, and through it. For better or for worse that's how I roll; seeking the edge.

This past year and a half I've struggled with my rambling nature, trying to settle down in one way or another. It hasn't really taken. I've learned a lot about myself and gotten into some really great things -- and so I have no real regrets -- but I'm coming to the conclusion that now is not the time for me to put down roots in the conventional sense, and indeed that "conventional sense" may simply not apply.

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Missing The Old You

One of the things I do of late when I come back to NYC is see women I used to be involved with. I'm a big believer in maintaining connections, especially the ones that have meant a lot, and it's been a point of pride for me that I'm friendly with virtually all my lovers and girlfriends.

Life in the Woods is more romantically lonely (lots more) than my urban days have been, so I really enjoy these dinner dates, remembering what it was like. I've no real agenda in mind, but it does wonders for my psyche to sit down with a beautiful girl and have a good conversation and realize that I'm still a likable guy. My day-to-day doesn't offer me much evidence of this -- again, speaking in a romantic context -- and my self-confidence is fragile enough that after spending enough time without positive feedback I begin to regress.

So last night I was having a great chat with this tall, enterprising, quick-witted beauty at the still-excellent Great Jones Cafe, and the topic of nostalgia comes up; my saw being that it feels depressingly premature to be looking back like that at the tender age of 27. She has a really great insight: the devilish thing isn't reminiscing for "the old times" as it's inevitable and arguably proper to cherish your own personal history, and anyway if you want to do the things you used to do, the odds are you can do them again. That's just a question of will. The real bugger is missing the person you used to be.

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