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Belonging

Maslow’s (simplified) hierarchy of needs, based on the hierarchy Abraham Maslow published in his 1943 paper “A Theory of Human Motivation”.

It’s not perfect and definitely shouldn’t be treated as universal, but I find it useful. For understanding my own behavior, many others’ behavior. Also for thinking a bit more about my approach to parenting.

The hierarchy is frequently visualized as a pyramid, but that’s not a perfect analogy. What’s something with permeable, blurred layers that maintains a definite order… Maybe a trifle? Why not.

Maslow considered the “bottom” four to be “deficiency” needs, meaning that not sufficiently meeting those needs would lead to anxiety, tension, and overall poor mental health. It would be pretty hard to focus on self-actualization without the meeting the deficiency needs.

I see the bottom layers as part of that all-important maintenance we have to perform on ourselves. You can get away without caring about self-maintenance as an adult, but only at the expense of others who have to compensate for you.

Amongst the people I most frequently encounter, and myself, we seem to be most insidiously deficient in belonging. Also esteem, but this feels like a knock-on effect from the lack of real belonging. (It may go without saying, but I am extremely fortunate to live within communities where our physiological and safety needs are fairly easily met.)

We desperately need to belong, but we increasingly feel that we don’t. This is exacerbated by both social media and 24hr news cycles. Who among us hasn’t once felt that the world as it is now, the direction it seems to be hurtling, isn’t made for them? For some people, these feelings are fleeting. For others, it is their albatross. And this feeling seems to be building. It doesn’t surprise me that this is one of the most divisive moments in my lifetime.

I think that the lack of belonging is also exacerbated by the independence-at-all-costs mentality that plagues much of the US in particular. You can’t feel belonging and be 100% independent. Belonging is a give and take operation, not lone-wolfism.

Again, all this reminds me of CBToF.

There is more to be said on this, and probably a lot here that I’m wrong about, but all I have in me right now is sleep. Maintenance.

A recipe card for trifle from 1973

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“Who gets to be a revolutionary?”

“Who gets to be a revolutionary?”

Writer Dayna Evans asks this partway through her Eater article “The Women Erased From the Story of No-Knead Bread”. It’s a good question. Who gets top billing for a semi-simultaneous invention or a collective idea?

It reminds me of discovering Louise Brigham’s box furniture while doing some research on Gerrit Rietveld’s crate furniture.

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To read: “Maintenance and Care” by Shannon Mattern for Places

Read the article “Maintenance and Care: A working guide to the repair of rust, dust, cracks, and corrupted code in our cities, our homes, and our social relations” by Shannon Mattern for Places, published in November 2018.

Yet even if we build an army of repair robots (a longtime sci-fi dream) and maintenance AIs, their hardware and software will still require upkeep. They’ll still depend upon well-maintained, interoperable technical infrastructures. They’ll still require cleaning staff — “industrial hygienists” — to maintain pristine conditions for their manufacture. We’ll need curators to clean the data and supervisors for the robot cleaning crew. Labor is essential to maintenance.

As Jay Owens reminds us,

There will be dust. There is always dust. By that I mean there is always time, and materiality, and decay. Decomposition and damage are inescapable. There is always the body, with its smears and secretions and messy flaking bits off. There is always waste and it always has to be dealt with, and shipping it out of sight overseas to the developing world does not change the fact this work has to be done (and it is dirty, dangerous work that demands its pound of flesh).

That’s true whether we’re talking about ditch-digging or dam-building or data-diving. Maintenance at any particular site, or on any particular body or object, requires the maintenance of an entire ecology: attending to supply chains, instruments, protocols, social infrastructures, and environmental conditions.

A lot of this relates to the push and pull between maintenance and innovation, how much more attractive innovation, the shiny and new, is in the public consciousness.

This brings me back, yet again, to Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction. The heroic versus the contemplative, the careful. The spear versus the receptacle. The linear versus the cyclical. Resolution versus the infinite.

What about a Carrier Bag Theory of Everything?

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“A leaf a gourd a shell a net a bag a sling a sack a bottle a pot a box a container”

That’s right, they said. What you are is a woman. Possibly not human at all, certainly defective. Now be quiet while we go on telling the Story of the Ascent of Man the Hero.

Go on, say I, wandering off towards the wild oats, with Oo Oo in the sling and little Oom carrying the basket. You just go on telling how the mammoth fell on Boob and how Cain fell on Abel and how the bomb fell on Nagasaki and how the burning jelly fell on the villagers and how the missiles will fall on the Evil Empire, and all the other steps in the Ascent of Man.

If it is a human thing to do to put something you want, because it’s useful, edible or beautiful, into a bag, or a basket, or a bit of rolled bark or leaf, or a net woven of your own hair, or what have you, and then take it home with you, home being another, larger kind of pouch or bag a container for people, and then later on you take it out and eat it or share it or store it up for winter in a solider container or put it in the medicine bundle or the shrine or the museum, the holy place, the area that contains what is sacred, and the next day you probably do much the same again — if to do that is human, if that’s what it takes, then I am a human being after all. Fully, freely, gladly, for the first time.

From Ursula K. Le Guin’s essay The Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction published by Ignota

GC gave me this book the other day, perfectly timed.

It can feel like the path to success, whatever on earth success actually is, takes some sort of aggro-ambition. What if it is gentler, more of a methodical and deliberate accumulation than a conquest?

SB has been playing Death Stranding and I’ve really enjoyed following along. The arc is definitely hero-centric, and of course the story is way out there in sci-fi land, but the main mechanic of accepting and delivering cargo is much more human than so many other supposedly more realistic video games.

I’d like to get and read Elizabeth Fisher’s Women’s Creation from 1975, but it might be tough to find in print. Thankfully the Internet Archive seems to offer it for borrowing. Pretty cool, I didn’t know that they had a lending library for scanned books.