The Upside-Down Pyramid?
In 1943, Abraham Maslow developed his celebrated hierarchy of needs. Something about that pyramid always seemed cold and impersonal. I remember first seeing it. Revisiting it on myriad occasions in my teacher training and other reference points could never remedy that feeling. Only now am I realizing why. I think that Maslow was looking at it upside-down.
From what we are now understanding about anxiety, love, emotional validation, and parent-child bonding, it seems to me that the most essential thing for a baby to feel is at the pinnacle: self actualization. If a newborn can feel the mother’s love and care, knowing that it can communicate in a way to get what is needed and wanted, that child has what God–the collective consciousness of the universe–intended. That child has already achieved the confidence and ability to act on behalf of self and can interact productively with others. This, to me, seems to be the ultimate self-actualization.
Every so often, I have had the good fortune to have had one of these students in my classroom. This past year, it happened again. This student was unassuming–quiet but social. He talked in class more often than what some teachers would have liked, but there was something remarkable going on. He always got his work done, and so did anyone else lucky enough to be near him. He never gave answers, but they saw how he worked, and he interacted with them such they learned from whatever he said. If someone near him was off task for his or her own attention-getting reasons, he moved to a quieter spot in the room. They usually never caught on to the reason he did it, so they were never offended. Their eyes could see, their ears could hear, but their hearts would not try to understand.
His mother held down two jobs. There was no father in the picture, and there were other siblings, too. She told me that she left lists on the refrigerator of things for them to do in the time between school and when she got home. A few times I made suggestions about what her son could do to reach higher and deeper into his learning. He would always do so (probably ended up on her lists), but he never came to me seeking recognition. I am beginning to believe that his self-actualization was fully intact from day one, so he easily asked for what he wanted or needed, responded when others asked things of him, and knew that nothing would ever be catastrophic. Nothing could ever separate him from love. I don’t know that his family attended church. I do know that he was grounded in a spiritual connection of love that transcended the physical constraints of scientific truth.
In this verse, Jesus clearly explains that we can find our way to the connection of his infinite wisdom and care. But we can only do this in complete innocence and dependence on our source of infinite love. We can only do it if we are humble and simple like a child. If we are shown the way by caring parents at our very first entry point –the pinnacle of self-actualization–the portal of connecting with the universal wisdom of being open to learning, open to sharing the learning we have received–living in an equilibrium of walking confidently on the calm waters, hand-in-hand with our creator of perpetual re-creation, we have nothing to fear. Nothing can hurt us. The pain of living is a temporary inconvenience.
The wisdom of the learned is folly. They seek to find self-actualization and are never satisfied, thinking that they never have enough. The simple, the basic, is the well-spring that provides our endless source of everything we will ever need. Ask, and it shall be given. Seek, and you will find. Knock, and it will be opened.
All my love,