Maslow and Food (part 4): Cognitive and Aesthetic needs.

 – the fourth installment of the Maslow and Food series –

As you move upward on the pyramid the concepts become increasingly abstract.  There are, for many of the remaining steps, no concrete or tangible things to indicate that you have completed the level.  Often, when I begin to think about the step I am in a very clear and defined place, but by the end I am left with only a feeling or sensation that I am then unable to articulate.  It has made this series of posts extremely difficult to complete.  Here is my best effort:

5. Cognitive needs – knowledge, meaning, etc.

The knowledge portion of this layer seems relatively straightforward.  At its most basic, it is purely the accumulation and retention of knowledge.  Somewhat like the previous layer, only on a more personal level.  Often I am not seeking new knowledge for status or respect or a promotion, I am simply seeking to satisfy my own need to learn something new.  To me, this gives my work (meaning) (whether at home or at my job) because I am expanding my horizons and progressing, whether or not there is a tangible outcome.  Sometimes it is as simple as the warm feeling in your chest when you’ve done something for the first time, a little tiny ball of pride that says “we did it and it was good.”  I can’t seem to appropriately articulate  why it is so satisfying, but it is.  Anyone who loves to learn will understand.

6. Aesthetic needs – appreciation and search for beauty, balance, form, etc.

Aesthetic needs are thoroughly subjective – there is no way that what I find beautiful will be exactly the same as what you do.  However, when I think about food from the soil and roots to the table all I can seem to think is that it is beautiful.

I learned at some point in my past that respect, almost reverence, for your food products is imperative to creating a great meal.  When you treat your food like “just another burger” it’s going to be just another burger.  But if you start out with the attitude that you have the best meats, the best buns, the best toppings, and you care for them as if they are extraordinarily valuable, the resulting product will likely be very valuable.  It will make you feel good, it will make whomever you are feeding feel good, it will look good, etc.

But I have digressed a bit.  What was the point? Right, beauty, balance and form.

Because of this reverence that I have developed for food, I have learned to garden.  Even as a child, I loved nothing more than a fresh tomato, fresh off of the vine and still a bit warm from the sun.  It was perfect.  It was plump and round and needed only a bit of salt to explode with flavor.  As an adult, there is nothing more beautiful and balanced than raising the fruit and vegetables from the ground up, nourishing them, caring for them, pruning them and ultimately harvesting them.  It feels right to care for and nourish the things which will nourish me, help me to care for my body.  It also creates a healthy balance in my life between work, stress, fun, and calm.  I genuinely enjoy gardening and the time spent with my hands dirty is soothing for my soul even on the most stressful of days.

I hope that I have managed to be clear and articulate about these two layers of the pyramid.  As I said at the beginning, the concepts are becoming more and more abstract.  Even if I had months to mull it over and write and rewrite I don’t know that I could ever articulate what exactly the feelings are like.  But, I have done my best for you and I hope you enjoy.

Join me this week for the last two rungs on the ladder and my conclusions.  As usual, I welcome your feedback.  Have a wonderful day 🙂


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