As I was standing in Mrs. Grunauer’s kitchen in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, carefully washing the dishes from the meal which we had just had, I began to think about all the people who have ever told me that they need a dishwasher. Not that it would be nice to have one, but that they just plain needed one, as it were, in order for things to go on in life and for life to be okay.
That Which Defines Need
I once dated a girl whose father said, and here I will paraphrase of course, that a person really needed only three things: To eat, to sleep, and to pray. He was a religious man, you could say – something I appreciated. That was something that crossed my mind as I was washing the dishes. What do people really need, I thought to myself. People don’t really need a dishwasher – this was a certainty. Here I was, staying with a wonderful family, a household which regularly saw guests on weekends and holidays, and they had no dishwasher. In a way, for the two weeks and one day that I was visiting, I was the dishwasher. Nevertheless – one of the things that I realized while washing dishes, besides the fact that I could enjoy washing dishes when I did it with the right frame of mind, was the fact that we don’t really need dishwashers. They are certainly helpful, but not, as it were, needed.
My mother used to tell me that there are some ridiculously wealthy people who sit around all day being miserable. They are miserable because no matter what they have, it is never enough for them and they always want more things, newer things, to keep them amused or happy. These are people who never were wanting for food, shelter, who never spent a day worrying that they might not be able to pay the rent for the month – and yet, these very same people are not happy. In the collection of writings known as "The Ethics of the Fathers," part of a large body of writings that is widely known as the Mishna, it is written: "Who is rich? He who is happy with his lot." In other words, it isn’t having a lot of houses that makes a person well off, but rather, being happy with the houses (or even the home, or apartment) that said person has. A person who owns mansions all over the world, I think, is much worse off than a person who has a small apartment on Riverside Drive who loves to walk down to the park and look at the flower garden.
I am exceedingly concerned about the condition of these fifty United States, in regards to the growing problem I see amongst the populace with overeating. This is a topic that I will, G-d willing, write more about in the future. For now, I would like to say that I find it rather disturbing, the way that food is being used as a means to solve just about every problem conceivable other than the one, I believe, that it was originally created for. That one, of course, being the need of our bodies for a sort of fuel, so to speak, to give our bodies the energy they need to function. Additionally, there are at present time many items being sold in supermarkets and other vendors which are passed off as food, while they are in fact naught but the least nutritive ingredients mixed together with artificial colors, flavors, additives, and preservatives so that they can sit on the shelf for years without spoiling.
There is much happiness a person can derive from the art of cooking, and it is not necessarily all too complicated. There are dozens of magazines that a person can find on the shelves of their local bookstore or newsstand which can help a person who wishes to cook their own food. There seems to be a movement fighting this in the form of the ever-increasing availability of precooked food. I recently saw, in a supermarket, pre-sliced oranges in a jar. I have also recently seen pre-made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with the crust already cut off. To me, this goes beyond sloth. I think I can safely say that there is something fundamentally wrong when people can’t even be bothered to find the time to make themselves a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
I know of people who never cook for themselves, ever – their diet consists of microwavable meals, other miscellaneous "instant" food, and take-out from various restaurants. Beyond being a rather unhealthy diet, I think of this as a great waste of food and, perhaps, a lack of appreciation for how incredibly wonderful food can be if one puts a little time into making it. Putting time into making it, of course, refers not to the five minutes that one must wait while the curly fries are being heated in the toaster oven, but actual time in preparing ones own food. If we eat in a glutinous manner and don’t take the time to appreciate our food, what are we?
To Sleep (Perchance, to Die)
Unless there is a large conspiracy hiding the secret of immortality from us, which will be eventually uncovered, our time that we have in this plane of existence is fairly limited. With that in mind, I must say that I am disturbed by the large number of people who spend much of their lives sleeping. I find it difficult to sleep in at all – the sun is shining, almost like a beacon of light, hinting to me gently that I am wasting time. Granted, the human body needs a certain amount of sleep in order to function properly – however, that amount of time is neither ten, nor twelve hours. That amount of time is more along the lines of seven or eight hours – and there are quite a few people who do fine with six or seven. I would not want to suggest that a person takes up the habit of sleeping three or four hours of sleep per night, only to spend a couple of weeks at a time sick as a result – that would be unhealthy both to the mind and body. Fortunately, here too balance can be found, and a person can sleep a reasonable amount of time without taxing their bodies or possibly sleeping their life away.
I think I’m just about the last person who should be writing about material possessions and how not needed so many are – I really do like having things that I have no need for. For example, I have a DVD collection consisting of nearly two hundred DVDs, perhaps more. I recently ordered three Pearl Jam concerts on CD from their summer tour. It was after I read an article about how they were planning on playing three shows at the same venue and not repeating any songs. That possibility intrigued me so much that I went over to the web site and immediately ordered the discs. I am someone who will, on a whim, go to a Web Site such as Half.com or Amazon.com, and pick up something that I think is nice or cute. Mind you, I will stop myself from doing so if I can’t get it at a reasonable price – though this doesn’t always stop me. For example, I was visiting my friend Karen Marcovici, when I saw that she had a Beanie Baby – a small English sheepdog, specifically. I thought that it was so adorable that I immediately went to e-Bay and found it being auctioned – and got it. Then there was the time that I saw someone in one of my classes when I was at Rutgers reading the first Harry Potter book. That day, I went to Half.com and picked it up for, I believe, a little less than seven dollars.
Despite the fact that I just rambled for a seemingly long paragraph about my own material interests, I would like to assure you that I am cognizant of the fact that I don’t actually need any of those things. There are certain things that I am better at in terms of material possessions, or so I would like to believe. For example, I am
a firm believer in simplicity when it comes to cars. For the most part, it seems to me that SUV actually stands for Silly Useless Vehicle. I’m not quite sure what benefit a person has who is sitting in bumper to bumper traffic in an SUV over the person ahead of them, who is in a more fuel efficient car, perhaps even a hybrid electric vehicle.
I have been doing my best to remove many unnecessary things and “needs” from my own life. I do acknowledge that many unnecessary things are quite nice to have. My Nintendo, for example, and various video games that I have for it – quite fun, and a nice diversion, but definitely not a need. So too with many things in life – pleasant diversions, but ultimately, not necessary. That doesn’t stop me from wanting them – preferably, of course, when they are available at somewhat of a discount.