Albert Einstein said:The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvellous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery every day. Never lose a holy curiosity.
The reason I mention this is because I am practically afflicted with a questioning nature, and in our urge for duality in life, where there are questions we then want a matching answer. But that’s the thing; questions more often than not lead onto more questions and not answers.
So this week I have (in my own way) questioned Freud’s theory of the id, ego and superego and I have revisited, with questions, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. And I have come up with doubts, agreements, and ultimately more questions. Certainly if I were to hold a dinner party for dead people next week I’d have that triumvirate seated down one of the long sides of the dinner table.
Freud seems to me to have done a creditable job of identifying certain human behaviour and feelings which can now be linked to distinct parts of the human brain. Neuroscientists might agree today that the function of the limbic system (the oldest part of the brain, wired for survival and getting its impulses met) sounds like Freud’s id. And they might allow that the pre-frontal cortex, the part to do with ‘higher’ functions such as reason and logic and planning, sounds rather like Freud’s ego. So through his observations, it can be argued that Freud was also in step with future science fact, and I suspect that because the theories resonated they gained purchase in the popular psyche, even today. My superego is still thinking about contemplating its own existence however…
Maslow’s hierarchy again resonates because it makes sense: if a person is being attacked with a knife their limbic system will be busy dealing with that, and they are hardly going to be thinking about some other higher purpose. One of my questions about the hierarchy model is about the people studied to gain the data: the top 1% of US college students. Maslow stated that “the study of crippled, stunted, immature, and unhealthy specimens can yield only a cripple psychology and a cripple philosophy.” That’s a shame – if he had studied Indian sadhus he might have ended up with a circular model instead. I also believe we live, and think, in an interconnected way, and not just in stages. I frequently come into contact with people who would say their basic needs are not entirely met, yet are able to think and act in ways that suggest they are not trapped in the bottom couple of layers of Maslow’s triangle. I guess those people just don’t fit into the top 1% – but hey that’s 99% of us isn’t it?
More interesting, and less obvious, was Maslow’s study of people he considered to be self-actualizers (but that’s another blog post).
And that’s about it for now; no answers, only questions. Although I did experience one answer to a question yesterday evening when I collected the kids from a school disco. When I arrived, the hall was thick with heat, the kids by now standing around. Well that’s their energy, I thought, just hanging around in that heat in the hall. But where has it come from? Because as we know (because the blog likes to revisit it often) a universal law of energy is that it cannot be destroyed. So I stood in the thick fug of dissipating heat and looked for my children and thought to myself, this energy has come from the food they have eaten – that’s obvious. But then came the next question: where will this energy go?
And I don’t know the answer to that question; if I did I would tell you… But I do know that you could probably run the Blackpool Illuminations for a week if you could capture the energy generated by a few school discos and kids drinking quantities of sugary drinks.