Faith

Richard Branson and Abraham Maslow are Aiming to the Wrong Direction. What About You?

Going up…

There has been a theory for almost eighty years that human needs are an ascending hierarchy of things, which are satisfied as the levels of a video game are surpassed until they reach the zenith, to the peak of self-actualization and then: GAME OVER. This height or maximum level is the highest psychological need of the human being, which gives meaning to life and is obtained when all the other levels have been reached, or so Abraham Maslow explains it in A Theory of Human Motivation (1943). Ironically then, arriving in space as billionaire Richard Branson would epitomize the extreme of achieving full potential, or the closest thing to the essence of being. To ascend psychologically or physically to the ultimate end of the world is the purpose of life, to be called an astronaut or a space traveler would be the utmost acquiring recognition.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

This theory does not convince me, it does not seem true, although logical. Is truth always logical and is it logic always true? No. ‘Think little head, think…’ and suddenly a trivial, innocent and simple contrast appears to me. Like in a movie I hear a melody accompanied by an angelic chorus like the lullaby of an icy blizzard. First, I see a rich and successful person, warm, drinking a glass of wine in the comfort of the house warmed by the fire and the murmur of the embers of the hearth. I make a flat cut and then I see a completely snowy valley, in the background some mountains of medium stature and here nearby a half-finished building where a lonely person is working barefoot in the terrifying white Tuscan winter.

I give them imaginary names. I will call the comfortable one Bernardo and I place him at the top of Maslow’s pyramid, meditating on whether he has self-realized or not, having achieved social recognition, security and without unsatisfied physiological needs. But incomprehensibly he is sad, empty, incomplete. I will call Francis the one stripped of his shoes and frozen, and I will throw him at the base of the pyramid, not knowing if he will feed this day, cold, tired and lonely like a hermit, considered crazy and expelled from the city, busy while placing one stone on another. But mysteriously he seems full, happy, at peace. How is this possible?

In the next shot, the prosperous and wealthy Bernardo runs towards that snowy valley in search of the mysterious figure of Francis. He walks slowly, observes and enters that building under construction where he paradoxically only finds smiles. He notices the various events and those that are there. Meanwhile a voice is heard singing: If you want your dream to be, build it slow and surely. Small beginnings, greater ends, heartfelt work grows purely. If you want to live life free take your time, go slowly. Do few things but do them well, simple joys are holy. Day by day, stone by stone, build your secret slowly. Day by day you’ll grow too, you’ll know heaven’s glory.

-Francis, are you okay? Bernardo asks.

-I’m very good, Francis responds, and adds: What about you?+

…going down

And how are you? Do you still want to climb to the top of the pyramid to realize yourself like Bernardo and be a space traveler like Branson? Congratulations then, but let me tell you the other part, Francis’ role before finishing the article.

There is also, although increasingly forgotten, a belief that human needs are not things that are satisfied by going up somewhere but by descending into the depths of being, as if it were the core of the Earth.

On the surface there is the thin crust of the need to possess, it is not self-realization but self-referentiality: me, myself and I. My biggest goal is to consume [(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction!] Piercing that thin outer strip we find a still light cloak of authoritarianism, tyranny and power in which we command, order, demand and trample on others. In that band our character and psychology still seeks to dominate the other as a fast mechanism to fill us, although unsustainable and dangerous. Drilling even further we will find the area of false securities, the weapons that we have accumulated over the years to protect ourselves. That is also part of who we think we are and is the outer shell of the core. Finally, having excavated the hard stones of each stratum to the outer core, we will arrive at the inner core, the essence, the being, the vitality, but there is still a test to overcome and that lends itself to enormous confusion.

It is not what we got, what we have that gives us privileges. It is the existential preeminence of what we are that allows us to be. It is not having, it is not status, it is not ascending that makes us exclusive, unique and fulfills us. If we do so we are pointing the other way because it is in the direction to transcend, penetrate, tool and drill all those geological layers towards what we are, where self-realize is.

We can choose to live as if we were pharaohs, even reaching the stratosphere or space. Will that engulf in excitement Richard Branson? Bernardo already demonstrated it more than 800 years ago. Living well, in pleasures and greatness is not always doing what I like or feel like doing. Sometimes, rarely, living well will involve voluntarily falling off the pyramid, stripping off, taking off your shoes, and freezing yourself. Not knowing if there will be food today, if you will be excluded and expelled.

Fullness, happiness and peace will come as you work by simply placing one stone on top of another. There, enigmatically the people will be, some from above and others from below. It is necessary to know from what place, but if you want your dream to be, build it slow and surely. Small beginnings, greater ends, heartfelt work grows purely. If you want to live life free take your time, go slowly. Do few things but do them well, simple joys are holy. Day by day, stone by stone, build your secret slowly. Day by day you’ll grow too, you’ll know heaven’s glory.’

-Are you okay? ask to Francis.

-I’m very good, Francis will respond, and he will add: What about you?

+Brother Sun, Sister Moon BY Franco Zeffirelli (1972)

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Pol

Pol

Writer. Pic of abuelo (c.1930)