We Are “Needful Things” at Heart

Jenny Kissed Me is an excellent blog featuring a steady array of very thoughtful poetry. (http://jeglatter.wordpress.com/2013/06/20/let-go-of-everything-that-does-not-serve-you/) In the poem linked here, she describes emptiness as a place of fulfillment and strength and uses the image of the mother’s breast as the model of need fulfillment. “Dear One, Let go of everything/That does not/Serve you/Then lay, rest//And suckle here,/Until your emptiness/Becomes/A strong new you.”

Clinical theory offers object-relations theory to explain the “needfulness” of the human heart, suggesting as the subject begins to formulate it “needs” objects with which to constitute itself. Or, better stated, it needs objects against which to define itself, this process of definition often described as “object separateness.” The mother, according to this theory is the first object, the “primary object”, and her breasts are the “primary” part of her as they are quickly learned to be satisfaction for a primary need, physical hunger.

But a primary dimension of the human experience will always be “emptiness” or an “object hunger” which we will return to if we do anything meaningful in life. If our ego is mature…if we have “ego integrity”…we will be able to let down our boundaries here and there and step into that “neediness” and there find a Strength that we will not find otherwise.

Marilynne Robinson wrote a marvelous novel entitled Housekeeping about twenty years ago, a novel that was turned into an excellent movie by the same name. In the novel she noted something that grabbed me even before I knew why, “Need can blossom into all the compensations it requires.” Robinson knew that need, though a very scary dimension of the heart, is fertile territory if we dare to go there. And, by describing it as “fertile” I am assigning it femininity and I do so deliberately; for, there in the maw of primordial hunger is our Source and it/He/She is the Ultimate compensation that can be found there. But, unfortunately, addiction of all varieties is always a ready temptation when we visit that matrix of life.

However, emptiness is antithetical to everything we are taught in Western culture and this is not unrelated to the misogyny that we making inroads into in the past 100 years. Our culture emphasizes “be strong” in an ego-maniacal way, not realizing that real strength is found in weakness. Sounds a whole lot like the teachings of Jesus, doesn’t it? Hmm.

And let me close with a facetious note. Stephen King wrote a short story entitled “Needful Things.” I sometimes like to think that this is a good description of the human race.


4 thoughts on “We Are “Needful Things” at Heart

    1. literary lew Post author

      Thank you so much! I think that “taking things other than where the author intended” might be my calling! I just hope my interpretation has some relevance to what the author says and is not, as Shakespeare put it, “the mere coinage of my brain.” Your poetry is rich and provides lots of substance for a mind like mine to “mine.” I hope you are enjoying your island excursion.


  1. jeglatter

    You took it to “needs” which took it to a quote I was thinking about before I left for my trip.:) It was a quote from Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj (who I hadn’t heard of before). It talked about needs that evaporate through meditation are not true needs, but those that still stand with meditation should be acted upon– the fruit tasted, good or bad. I will find the exact quote when I get home for you. It stood out so much that I got a book “I Am That” with his teachings to look at while I am here. I haven’t yet. I will send the quote it was interesting. And yes, I am enjoying my first time using a passport.:) Thank you for this blog post!-Jennifer


  2. literary lew Post author

    I’m looking forward to the quote. And, you will love “Housekeeping.” It is one of the best novels I’ve ever read. It is very short and not very well known popularly. But it got a lot of good reviews in literary criticism circles. And the movie was just marvelous.



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