Monday, August 29, 2011

Better to Have with no Need

Four Chords & Several Years AgoWe've all heard it. I'm sure Huey Lewis wasn't the first to say it. Every time you need something you don't have, someone's sure to say, "It's better to have but don't need, than to need but don't have."


Is that why you've got all that junk in your garage? All those little toys and baubles and sundry, you got that because it was better to have it so you wouldn't need it?

Okay, I can see where sometimes that's good advice. It might rain today, so take an umbrella. Better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it. The power might go out so you can't get in through the garage door, so you'd better bring your house key on your walk. The Russians might develop nuclear weapons, so we'd better develop some too.

But it doesn't work for everything. For example:

I don't need a private jet, but maybe I should get one, just in case, right? Better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it. I might have to run from The Langoliers some day.

I don't need an elephant, but I'd probably better get one just in case I decide to go to Thailand for the summer. You can't go to Thailand without an elephant!

I don't need a bazooka, but I'd probably better get one.

Okay, I probably do need a bazooka, just in case I get into a traffic jam caused solely by rubber-neckers, but I think you get the point. The phrase is what's known as a false dichotomy. It means we're being misled into thinking we have only two choices, usually two BAD choices. It's a favorite tool of politicians and lawyers to make people think they have only one sane choice. It may be better to have something and not need it than to need it and not have it, but think: if you REALLY don't need it, then why have it? That's right, you have a third option! It's even better to not need it AND not have it!

I just saved you about a trillion dollars of buying stuff you don't need. You don't need a fancy car if a regular car will do. You don't need a TV if you've got a good imagination and a good book. There is no conceivable use for a tattoo other than to proclaim to the world you have no sense. You don't need your own country. You don't need 99% of the crap that advertisers try to sell you, so don't buy it! (Obviously, if I try to sell you something, it's because you DO need it!)

There's an awful lot of stuff out there you've been conned into buying that you simply have no need for, and I'm not talking strictly about possessions. There are a lot of ideas you don't really need either. Any time a politician tries to pull your heart-strings to get you to jump through a hoop, stop and think: is what they're pushing on you REALLY the dividing line between good and evil? Were they REALLY thinking of the children when they proposed this? Are there OTHER options which should be considered?

When someone says, "We need this sidewalk so people don't get run over," is there really no other choice? "I have to do at least 90 on the highway or I'll get run over." I'll bet that's not true. "Video games are rotting kids' brains." Is it possible that maybe a lack of parenting is the real culprit? "If you want to be a 7 foot tall basketball player, you have to train like one." Are you sure?

Exercise a modicum of your vast intellect once in a while, okay?


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