semantics

I’d like to discuss the semantic difference between “need” and “want” and what they mean to me.  There are certain things you need in your life – food, water, shelter, air.  But what does it mean when another person tells you that they need you?  Is it a confusion or semantic mistake?  Is it a dependence that indicates something a bit deeper than want?  I am asking this because there is a definite difference between when a person says “I want a car,” and when someone says “I need you here.”  There’s an intensity involved with “need” that makes it more personal, more intense.  We all want to feel like we are needed or wanted – it’s a human nature sort of thing.

But I think it is more important to recognize wanting a person (or a thing, whatever) here.  I think wanting a person in your life is the more mature way of saying it.  Of course, we need nobody.  “Every man is an island.”  But to recognize that you’d like someone there just because they make a great addition to your life, instead of “needing them”, I think there is a big step and a difference.

 I find this true because I wrote it in a story four years ago, about a character who seemed so self-assured in her life, and wanted nobody else there to depend on — to the point that, of course, it scared her when she finally found someone she wanted to be with.  It’s funny how one day, life imitates art in a way that seems uncanny.  This excerpt is the protagonist calling the girl out:

 “You are afraid of wanting something.  And that, to you, is the ultimate fear.  Whether it be a job, a person, a car, a cup of tea, or a biscuit – you are scared shitless of wanting something to the extent of need.  Because then it has control over you and then you are no longer the tyrant, but the whore.  And this is why you are the way you are.  Because you need the constant control.  Not to save everyone else from yourself, which, really is a fantastic excuse and almost fooled me – but to save yourself from everyone else.  And for once in your goddamn life, I would really appreciate you not pawning your emotional instabilities off onto other people – mainly myself.”  

Maybe I haven’t really discovered the huge semantic difference between want and need, or even the derivative meaning.  But I feel a little closer.

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