Self Actualization Pizza with Cheese
Partially inspired by Grandma’s chicken soup
A meal is an ongoing conversation between the consumed, the consumer, and the meal's origins. I won’t argue for why fresh food tastes better than anything frozen or premade - there’s science behind this experiential truth. I do however want to dig into the cliché that meals made yourself (or made by someone who cares about your culinary experience) will taste better than something store bought - or worse, from a value menu.
As my elementary school pictures can attest, I LOVE food. I’ve been cooking since the age of 10 when my tyrannically organic mother answered my request for a pizza dinner with: “alright, but you have to make it yourself.”
Despite my initial protests, I conceded and got to work. My efforts were rewarded - that pizza was better than anything I’ve had delivered in 30 minutes or less.
Although there are a few possible reasons behind this good feeling (like the little hit of euphoria that comes completing a difficult task), I think it’s the motivations behind a chefs’ actions contribute to the deliciousness of home cooking.
An action for a different reason changes the meaning of that action
Think of it this way: why is fast food generally gross? Because it’s made indelicately, mechanically, and with cheap, capitalism-friendly ingredients. The people behind the counter of whatever chain joint (probably and/or generally) don’t care if you like the food. And why does Grandma’s chicken soup taste so good? Because it’s made lovingly and with attention and everything is just how you like it. It’s made specifically and solely to be enjoyed – more specifically, by you.
I’ll stay away from any sweeping statements because, for all I know, there’s a teenage chef-to-be at your local burger place who genuinely wants you to enjoy the experience and prepares each meal with care and patience. There may also be a grandma out there who doesn’t care if you like her food. The point is – the “why I’m here” and “why I do this” are directly reflected in the fruits of your labour.
To boil this down even further: your psychology affects the quality of everything you do. For example: salacious sex, passive aggressive niceties, disgruntled employees; are all examples of conflicting principles. That is to say, you’d rather be somewhere else doing something else.
And if this is true of something as simple as making a sandwich, imagine the complexity of actions and motivations during a heated political or ethical debate. So the way I see it, knowing one’s motivations – knowing the true position one advocates for – is the most important piece of knowledge one can have.
So, do I control my motivations, or are they controlling me?
The not-so-simple answer is a bit of both. Though motivations drive an agent’s actions, it is the agent who can choose to act either with or against the motivating principle.
For example, a basic anthropological principle is that action is motivated by either fear or desire (I don’t care to argue if this is true or not, I merely need here an explanatory example). In other words, we do things because we either want to flee the present, or chase the future. A simple (if not scarring) way of overcoming fear or quitting a painful desire is to immerse yourself in that which brings fear (immersion therapy), or detach completely from that which you desire (going cold turkey).
So, how you act, including the decision to act differently, is an expression of one’s natural inclinations - one’s predetermined tendencies. This is the bit where motivations are driving you. On the other hand, everyone is, at any point in time, free to go against their tendencies, and this is how you are in control of your motivations.
Do not however take this as my saying that it’s easy to rewire your own programming. It’s not. It’s not easy at the beginning and it doesn’t get easier as time goes on – you just get better at it. Every instant of having to exert sheer willpower to override your natural inclination will be a grueling challenge. But from the challenge comes the knowledge that you really are the master of your own body, mind, and life is liberating.
You are the manifest result of nature and nurture
This statement by itself is obvious, but its importance is found in the fact that you, living as the result of this biological equation, are able to understand the parts that come together to form “you.” So do you really know who you are? Do I? Does anyone?
Ultimately, no. I, as a metaphysical organism, am beyond my own grasp of understanding, in very much the same way as I cannot bite my own teeth, or look myself in the eye (without a mirror).
But a degree of understanding is very much possible, and it’s understanding within the realm of the knowable is what we should seek.
You can’t be happy if you don’t know what you really want
Do I prefer thin crust or thick crust? Paper or plastic? Am I sexually and/or emotionally attracted to men, women, both, or neither? Does my personality conflict with or compliment my values? Do I ever want kids? Does pineapple belong on pizza? Internally divisive questions like these come from both the conscious and subconscious minds and are found hiding underneath every decision we make. Every person is subject to various conditions like these (and a possible infinity more), and uncertainty is a normal part of the human condition. And so, it is up to each individual person to uncover and/or create their own solutions to these seemingly imposed questions.
What to do about uncertainty
A simple recognition of this relationship is just the first step. They only way to move past this self-confrontation and internal conflict is to accept the possibility of any answer being the one that happens to be true for you.
Acceptance of any possibility is important because, not only is it possible, but it’s quite common for someone to dislike a truth about themselves. Superficiality is the perfect example of such an inconsistency: “I don’t like the way I look” is, although vain, nicely illustrative of this point. One must accept the possibility of looking absolutely any sort of way before they can come to peace with how they are. In the same way, one must accept the possibility of being sexually oriented any sort of way before being able to accept the fact of the matter that is true for them.
To accept who you are before knowing who you are, it’s necessary to step outside societal and familial norms, leaving behind ideas of who you think you should be. And why the effort? Because self-inquiry is the only way to come to terms with the uncertainty of having to define who you are. Because an answer or an understanding to identity defining questions can only have context once the question posed.
So, the next you choose between rabbit or duck - this or that - ask yourself what you’re really trying to decide between, even if it’s as simple as “mammal or bird.” Get to know yourself a little bit better, and get to know what it is you really want out of life. It’ll make things a whole lot sweeter.