Indigentology: the study of need
The Study of Need
Introduction to indigentology
Indigentology is the study of need. Indigentology is also a neologism, coined to describe this narrow focus on how we humans experience our own and one another's needs. This section covers this new field of study specifically from a homeostasis paradigm. It makes extensive use of a Native American understanding of organic cycles. We will see many of these cycles in the sections listed below. Click on the heading to go to that section.
We begin with the process of becoming aware of our needs. Using the Native American wellness wheel and other helpful diagrams, we illuminate how our focus shifts to what demands our attention for relief, and what prompts us to regard someting as good or bad.
From introducing the concept using a homeostasis paradigm to utilizing the Native American wellness wheel (or sacred circle symbol) to illustrate how we experience our needs, this section warms up the sections that follow. Each entry features a diagram to illustrate the point.
This section builds upon the foundation set by the previous section. Also featuring diagrams to illustrate these indigentological concepts, this section focuses on how we respond to our needs—normatively or not so normatively. This sets up the following Conventionalities portion of this website.
A new perspective invites a new vocabulary. The bulk of these terms are neologisms. Others are common terms provided with a specific and/or operationalized definition to help them be hypothesis friendly. When one of these new terms gets introduced you can expect to find a link to this glossary.
Before proceeding, it may help to start with the three initial principles of indigentology and also its initial underlying paradigm.
What do you need?
In our political and moral discussions about what we should do about something, the frequent elephant in the room is the underlying need the action or policy is aimed to relieve. The experience of human needs is diverse, but each experienced need appears to share some common ground. Before concluding what we are to do about something, wouldn't it be helpful to possess a deeper understanding of the need?
Indigentology is a way to think of need experience critically. This may start as a field of research or simply provide a paradigm for other areas of interdisciplinary research. The first paradigm offered here is homeostasis. The process of homeostasis provides just one helpful perspective for understanding needs. New perspectives from others may follow, and are encouraged.
When needs arise and we find our attempts to relieve them repeatedly frustrated, it can help to dig deeper to the root of the experience. That is what indigentology can do for us. At the core of this site is to see how we normatively respond to our needs, and then explore some alternative ways potentially more favorable to us all. We may need to rethink how we experience our needs before we effectively relieve them. What do you need?
1. There is no good or bad except for need.
We label things or people as "good" or "bad" solely for how they relate to our experience of needs. Good is when our need is relieved, bad is when it isn't relieved. If something doesn't relate to our experience of need in either way then these categories of "good" or "bad" simply do not apply.
What we call a need is our experience of something departing from its optimal zone of functioning. Too little fluidity in the body, for example, triggers the need for water intake through thirst. Too much sends us to the restroom for removal. What we call need is often the stuff we do or use to restore that optimal functioning zone.
3. There is little homeostasis except for referenced resources.
Most of our attention to needs goes to what resources we trust to restore that root balance. Instead of thinking about proper fluid level or temperture level as the need, we say we need water. We reference the visible resource of water. Conflating our universal needs with its diverse ways of remediating them has often led to trouble.
Cyclic paradigm: Patterns in nature
As a Native American (Oneida), I bring an integrated view of nature into my work. We traditionally see nature not merely as external to ourselves but in us and through us and all around us. To understand human needs is to appreciate its nature. This section makes extensive use of that indigenous worldview.
Key to illustrating this perspective is the sacred circle. It is traditionally divided into four quarters, often complementary to each other. Each circle and its quarters can represent many things, potentially infinite. We’re using it to illustrate the many interconnecting cycles in nature, referred to here as the wellness wheel.
Static & dynamic hemispheres
In symbolizing nature’s cycles, think of upper half of the circle as near to self and the lower half as near to others. Now think of the right half as moving from self to others, and the left half as moving from others toward self. These overlapping hemispheres provide us with the four quarters of the wellness wheel, albeit with indefinite borders.
We use the four cardinal directions to signify the quadrants. The cycle generally starts in the EAST quadrant on the right of the circle. Then it moves down to the SOUTH quadrant. After cycling to the WEST and NORTH quadrants, we cycle back to the EAST quadrant in an ongoing circle.
Color my world
Each quadrant is traditionally represented with a different color. Where I reside in Anishinaabe country the EAST is yellow like the morning sun, the SOUTH is red like the blood of the heart, the WEST is black like the cave of the bear, and the NORTH is white like the snow of winter. Other tribal cultures signify the quarters with different colors. None are wrong. But I have learned how ascribing any arbitrary color could be incorrect for their cultural relation to the land in that geographical region. And I find too much reliance upon a tribal culture's color scheme risks cultural appropriation.
In contrast to these parochial tribal traditions is what I call the translucidity wheel (at right). Each quadrant is signified by an infinite rainbow to signify potential beyond any specific human culture. This is not to imply it is better, only a different representation of the wheel. More on that in the conventionality section.
Often we will simply use a wheel without colored quadrants, as above. Some of these will still use two other colors featured in many wheels: green for the boundary lines between the quadrants and sky blue for the circle’s circumference. If you guessed that green symbolizes the earth and sky blue for the sky then you are right on target.
Cycles within cycles
While each quadrant represents part of a larger cycle, it can include many cycles within. Each quarter can be an expression of a full inner cycle. Think of the day as a cycle within the week, the week as a cycle within the month, and the month as a cycle within the year. This feature will also be touched upon in this section.
This is merely a brief introduction to this use of First Nation symbolism in the wheel. More is to be explained in the blog entries.