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“Indigentology” Introduction

| #002 | THEORY > indigentology | 621 words |


Try and Google that word and you will come up blank. Or perhaps be drawn back here. Because here is the first instance of the word online.

Yes, a neologism. It refers to the study of need.

Exactly, What Is Need?

Do you “need” a glass of water when you’re thirsty? What if I told you the glass and the water are actually “referents” for relieving the root need of bodily imbalance? Whether fluid imbalance or temperature imbalance, “need” in its root sense is experiencing a loss of equilibrium. A “referent” is what we refer to for restoring that balance.

I “need” water, or a drink containing water, as a required means for relief. It’s not the water itself I need as much as its result in restoring my body’s optimal fluid level, or optimal internal temperature, or both. If there was a more optimal means for restoring these preferred zones of equilibrium then I would not “need” water to drink.

Needs vs. Referents

All life shares many of these root needs. With rare exceptions, all humans share the same root needs. It is the referents for easing such needs that begin to diverge. We tend to easily conflate our different referents with our common needs, to our own hurt.

In short, need is the departure from an optimal equilibrium zone. A referent is the trusted means for restoring equilibrium. Despite both being called a need, these are actually distinct from each other.

Disequilibrium-Expressed Needs

When the preferred level drops from its optimal zone, it triggers the body to decide to draw in some deficient referent from outside of itself. We experience this as some level of desire. When the preferred level rises above its optimal zone, it triggers the body to put some distance between itself and the excessive referent. We experience this as some level of pain.

The former propels us toward action, to draw the trusted referent inward to ourselves. The latter propels us toward an opposite action, to push the unwanted referent outward from ourselves. When equilibrium is restored, the body reports this as a pleasure or a relief, respectively.

Open or Closed

This applies to an open system, where the body interacts with something outside itself. Whenever restoration calls for one’s behavior–to draw something in or keep something out–a decision is triggered toward action, or inaction. Only in an open system, requiring decided action, is awareness readily triggered.

Equilibrium that is part of the body’s closed system, such as blood circulation, does not trigger the same kind of awareness when that level falls outside of its optimal zone. As an automated system, there is no decision to promptly act upon to restore something like optimal blood flow.

Need-Expressed Behavior

The experience of root need drives the bulk of our behavior. The body constantly triggers a reaction when dropping out of a homeostatic optimal zone. Experience provides memory of the trusted referents for restoring that equilibrium.

Immediate reaction reaches for the first item on that memory’s list. If not available then the second item is sought, then the third, and so forth. When that second item is considered readily available and adequately satisfying, it often replaces the first. A new hierarchy of referents is born.

Behavior-Expressed Morality

As long as equilibrium is adequately restored by the referent then it is readily categorized as some degree of good. But when pain or desire persists, especially when unexpected, it is readily categorized as some degree of bad.

“There is no good or bad without need.” This is the first driving principle of indigentology. And this shall be the first among many entries, with more indigentological principles to come, to put this study of need to practical use.

Steph is a self-described transspirit, which is a kind of sacred misfit. By transcending conventional limits—gender norms, religious identities, political polarities, and more—Steph experiences a unique connection in life. And suspects others do as well. This blog shares that spirituality, and affirms others of a similar state of being.

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