Friday, October 10, 2008

What Really Are Basic Necessities?

A scene in the novel "The Last Canadian" (William Heine, 1974) depicts the main protagonist (Gene) exploring through a financial district in downtown New York City. Hit by a lethal plague that wiped out all but a few North Americans, most cities have become uninhabitable due to vandalisation and destructive looting. Gene walks by a bank and ventures into the bank's vault after noticing it was open. After staring at the vast amounts of money bags holding seemingly infinite numbers of hundred and thousand-dollar bills, Gene simply leaves. This very unique scene embodies a very interesting context for asking the old question of what really are important items and goals for well-being?

The scene depicted in the novel is relevant for answering the question because in the plague-ridden society, money is completely irrelevant. The arbitrary accumulation of money is of no value. Furthermore, social approval is drastically downplayed because only a few hundred individuals remain across North America most of which live alone. Hence, individuals (as portrayed in the novel) generally focus on acquiring items that have functional value for survival and pursue activities related to intrinsically motivated goals. For example, Gene doesn't acquire new clothes or luxurious jewelery that don't provide any additional functional benefits or acquire items for the sake of keeping up with his neighbors.

The exercise of going through this hypothetical situation and asking how one would live their life could potentially be a valuable exercise for individuals seeking to probe more deeply into what is truly important to them and how to better align their actions with their inner-directed goals.

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