January is a bleak month in the Netherlands. We usually have to do without a proper winter like our neighbours in the east and the north have. All we typically get is sleet, rain, mist and a little frost. That does not mean it isn’t cold. That all pervading watery cold is the worst I think, it is the kind you can hardly dress for. It often makes me think of my ancestors, especially the ones long ago. How did they manage to keep warm and more important: keep their spirits up? It must have been incredibly hard to live here. The rivers and seas were a constant threat for their livelihood and even their life, during winter, before they were tamed by dikes and dams.
Considering their hard living conditions, it makes me very grateful for our simple, but comfortable warm house, the clothes we wear, the abundance of cheap, healthy food in the shops. Even I, with my ordinary life, live in a more comfortable and yet far more stimulating environment than my ancestor’s kings and queens. Yet I constantly have to remind myself of this fact. It is too easy and tempting to long for more, and our whole society is built around our restless never-satisfied human nature. Of course, it is only natural to want more. Maybe there is a whole other steeple to Maslow’s pyramid we do not even know about. A range of ways to self-actualise and express ourselves.
But these misty winter mornings make me happy to look down the pyramid instead of upward. It is a sobering reminder of how my basic needs are met, have been met every day of my life. It falls to us, the people alive today, to preserve what we have, no easy feat in these turbulent times. And if we manage to do that, maybe we will discover the unknown steps of the hierarchy of needs, like climbing a vast mountain hiding in the clouds.