Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a theory of psychology written in 1943, which focuses on the stages of growth in humans.
The stages go something like this:
physiological: air and water
safety: personal security, health and well-being
love/belonging: friendship, intimacy, and family
esteem: a sense of contribution or value
self-actualization: the realization of potential.
They are great. Stealing from the great Joseph Campbell I learned something though. And gave it my own interpretation.
Pursuing those things is not where life is found. Campbell talks about myths and the value of myths. Myths bring awe and wonder back into the world and provide a bigger and more mysterious story to live into. That is their power.
Toward the end of his life Maslow even added another level: self-transcendence. “The self only finds it actualization in giving itself to some higher goal outside oneself, in altruism or spirituality.”
And someone who is not living into myth, well, they are not living life to the fullest.
We all know that someone who must walk for 8 hours a day for basic water is surviving but not living.
The same could be said for someone who must work 8 hours a day to realize their own potential. They are surviving but not living.
That is why the myth, if you want to call it that, that a divine power that contains and is expanding the universe to ever greater and brighter and more beautiful arenas, and that lives within me and you and is pulling me somewhere I can not imagine, if I just let go of all the pursuits and realize I’m enough in this moment, right now, is where life actually might start to begin.
If we go one step further, every good myth contains some main parts - the hero’s journey as Campbell called it.
The Summons, the Wilderness, the Gift, and the Return.
So, this divine power containing and expanding and letting us know we are enough and bringing us to better life is not all magic fairies.
It’s bravery to go new places with our thoughts, it’s the courage to be in the places of pain and suffering that brings us, it’s the gift of realizing we’re okay, even there, and it’s returning with something majestic and motivating for those who are still where we once were.
I agree with Campbell - we need better myths and better explanation of the myths of the Bible and those we are living.