Necessary conditions for being a human (Mary Anne Warren):
Being conscious, able to reason and to engage in self-motivated activity.
The subject of being necessary – something that which is perceived to be needed.
The word necessity has been rolling over in mind for a few months now. I’ve been meditating on it and considering it from various angles trying to determine its core, its form, and how knowledge and understanding of the word at a deeper level can apply to life.
Like normal when I get obsessed with a word, I look up all the definitions of it. Differences in interpretation can reveal so much. I have provided the definitions I found most enlightening (see below).
This interest in the word necessity came about from a stream of consciousness writing session. When reading my words back, which I rarely do, my eyes snagged. Something rumbled in me and like an avalanche, many heavy questions came.
- What is a necessity in life? Is it say, breathing or more so coffee, for instance. Or love?
- What makes something a necessity? Is it my perception, my experience? My need?
- What is the opposite of a necessity? A want? Is it as simple as that?
- Does every individual have their own set of lifelong necessities, like a fingerprint? Or does the object of our necessity change as we grow?
- Is that which is a necessity vital to maintaining my existence? If I am unsure what a necessity is to me, or I focus on non-necessities, what happens to the quality of my existence?
Besides the stream of consciousness writing, this is what has been going on in my life, which probably has influenced me to pour over this one word. This word, necessity, it seems has been stalking me for a while.
I’ve been on a journey to simplify my life, to diminish anxiety and to generally be drama free. It’s been a process of about five years now. With every burst of “review”, I try to refine, find focus in what’s important, chisel away bits that aren’t required. I’ve gone from lots of jobs at the one time, to one job; from a three bedroom house and garden and chicken palace, to some boxes in a room in a share house. From a practical marriage to singledom with a cat.
This exploration on the word necessity came at a transition point for me. One where I decided to move from my adoptive home of eight years in regional Queensland back to my real home, in the famous big city of Sydney. I moved to a new area for me and to a new job. Much changed and much was shaved out of my life in leaving Townsville behind.
I went through a process of packing down my cottage, with chickens and floor to ceiling wardrobe, and full kitchen and space even to artfully arrange paintings in old French style (on top of one another in lines on the wall) and various conglomerates of ornaments on shelves.
I was heading to one bedroom in a share house and a shelf in a communal kitchen. I wasn’t even sure I had space in the bathroom to leave a towel.
My goal was to reduce my possessions down to what could fit in the back of a flat tray ute. I did fail there but I travelled south lighter than I had been for almost a decade. How did I choose what to keep and what to let go of?
I considered what is at the core of me, what felt a necessity in my life — so all books and art remain. What things people had given me that was essential to keep for nostalgia or memory or to hold onto a personal story line, so some gifts, no matter how impractical remain. It’s a necessity to me to hold on to these things, right now. It might change.
For the rest I sold off on Gumtree and had a garage sale and gave away. I let go of old school diaries. Old clothes. Antique furniture I’d brought from Sydney on the way up. Now I have peeled off layers of my possessions and I’m living a new life, I feel I am eating the fruit of having only what is truly dear to me. No whipped cream or cherry.
My regrets? To not be able to bring my beloved chooks, but I negotiated with myself here. What was a necessity for them? Food and a nice, safe home. They could not have much of a life in a city apartment, nor delicious soil to scratch though and it is too cold for their experience any way. My other regret? Letting go of my record player and records. Why did I do such a thing? Music is important to my history, my awareness and creativity. Spotify is becoming a consolation and so is the fact that Sydney has ample record outlets. Maybe having the record player wasn’t such a necessity after all. But man, did it definitely feel like it.
The driver of the move was about necessity too. No longer could I live so far away from family and my roots. Something about dinners with Aunty Tess reading out the quiz questions while Grandma nails the science answers and Mum the general knowledge were calling me. The lemon scented gums were calling. The thick waves were calling. And being able to attend art galleries every weekend was luring. Family and the sensory and enriching familiar were becoming taught with requirement. That which to hold again was a necessity to feel full.
Another angle I explored the word necessity from was with about my life goals. What is a necessity for a life of fulfilment? I’d complained long and hard enough that I want to paint more, read more, write more. So this transition became time to put into action what will lead to the bigger picture. Kind of like a strategic plan for life. Big goal: make a living from writing and art making. Every day goal : write and make art. It’s not rocket surgery, but I had lost my way.
I found what helped was a good old star chart; something used by parents to congratulate their children for using the toilet properly or putting their toys away without being asked. A good behaviour display. Positive reinforcement from an authority for doing something that ultimately grows you into a better version of yourself.
This, as children, is an external motivation. But as we get older we have to be both parent and child. In a way we must trick ourselves; dissect and split ourselves. Be the authority and be the follower. The adult me writes down all the things that are a necessity to have my soul feel breathed into; and the child me, when I have been disciplined to do what I am “meant to”, gets praise in the form of a bright texta asterix. Read for a time — get a pink asterix. Opt to paint for the evening — get an asterix made from leftover acrylic. Do yoga — you get the picture. Such joy in the asterix on the paper taped to the wall.
I feel like these activities are a necessity to my being. Without doing them, I lose myself. Days become filled with pollutants such as Instagram scrolling. They eclipse what is essential to the life I want to lead. An external force or distraction gives a subtle twist, a repositioning of my body. I lose so sight of my destination. The map is twisted underneath the direction of the compass. Due to a sneaky act I allowed to creep in.
Now I have considered this too. What people say they can’t live without, says a lot about their privilege. It’s on dating sites, What five things can you not live without? What did I write? Yoga, Art, Thinking, My cat, Coffee. I mean, really, how pretentious? Am I sure I really could not live without these?
I do feel that prickly edge of privilege. The guilt of this whole riff. I have the inclination and space to dedicate time to considering what one fecking word means. And to struggle to get myself on the yoga mat. To struggle to cook new foods. To struggle to relaxedly potter in the garden. To be able to go on a journey of letting things go and myself go, allowing myself to do “what is right for me”, to choose mundane, but enriching things. I recognise this privilege.
I’m not changing the world any more — not using my time to fight, not raging against a misuse of power. My resistance is coming from doing what’s a necessity for me, that comes from me, and not some others’ requirement. What some people say is a necessity is likely not for others. What some forces say is a necessity is not for me. I’m cooking a fricking souffle for fun and learning how to squish paper through an etching press. Simple acts. Not quite drama free, but simple acts. These are my new necessity.