Photo Credit: Brevitē,

This article is part of a special in-depth series on happiness entitled, “Between The Theory And The Reality Of Happiness.”

How Basic is Basic Needs?

It was 11:00 pm on a Sunday when I landed. As we made our way out of the plane and headed toward the luggage claim area I looked around for happy faces. I saw none, so I thought: “Is it possible that all of them are starving or have no place to sleep?

We waited for luggage long enough to be informed that we would be waiting some more. Frustration and displeasure were clearly shown on almost everyone’s face. I initially thought it could have been a normal reaction giving the time and the day. But the 1st part of my brain found it convenient to engage the second part of my brain in that conversation again. At this point I decided to name both of them. The first part I called Elpis and the second part I called Phronesis.

Elpis said: “Can you believe this?! I told you it is not a matter of basic needs. None of the passengers left Miami on the back of a camel to come to D.C. Everyone had enough refreshments. Some watched few movies while others enjoyed a good nap. They landed safely, and they are surrounded by security. And now, while waiting in the comfort of a heated space, they have access to the world through their tiny devices. They choose to be unhappy for nothing. I stand by my opinion. Happiness is a personal choice. What do you have to say Mr. Maslow’s Pyramid?”

“We have no evidence that they don’t lack basic needs. How do we know that some of them don’t have sick family members waiting for them? How do we know that they have no one to take them home? How do we know that they did not come from an emotionally draining event?” Said Phronesis.

Elpis: “Giving everything you said, how does their frustration now improve anything? How does it contribute to their happiness?”

Phronesis: “I agree with you that it looks more as if they chose how to feel. Waiting is an inconvenience, but is it enough to cause frustrations that could lead to unhappiness? So, I think you are alluring to the level of their awareness. What can they truly control? How much can they control? And why do they even want to control that matter?”

Elpis: “Spot on. It sounds like we are in agreement after all.”

Phronesis: “No so fast. I still would like to hear your revelation about how to raise their awareness.”

Suddenly, a sound similar to the “wrong answer” buzz came out loud. An orange light started flashing. The luggage belt moved in a weaving motion and I saw my little suitcase laying on its sides and coming my way. I happily grabbed it and headed out to see my wife’s beautiful smile waiting for me in the car. I wondered: “How many passengers were as lucky as I was. I had the luxury to leave the heated airport space, walk 10 feet as I was wrapped in my warm clothes, find a dedicated wife who is happy to pick me up at midnight and secure my arrival to my house. Would I be smiling if one or none of these components were absent?” Then I heard Elpis saying: “Are we taking sides now? Are you making a team with Phronesis?” “Not really,” I said, “I am only trying to find the right recipe to help my fellow human beings be happy.”

Elpis: “Let’s work on awareness. You look like you know some of that. Start there and see how it works out. I believe if you can help one person at a time you are contributing to a happier world by choice.”

“One step at a time partner. That’s a bigger matter. Let’s see what he can do for personal happiness,” said Phronesis.

“Deal,” I said, “I believe I have a robust starting point that I will bring to our next discussion. You will be pleased. Just hang tight. For now, I need to honor my basic needs.”

I would love to hear your thoughts about the questions above, and until I talk to you next, stay happy.