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This blog is dedicated to the art of musing. From now on, this is where I will muse.

Want and Need

Daily muse...Posted by Karen Sawyer Sun, July 17, 2011 02:19:22

Want is to need as thought is to deed.... There’s a fine line between ‘em. If I want something, it’s not because I need it – though it’s true to say that sometimes I want something that I need, like money, for example. Having said that, I only had two pence to my name for a few days recently, and although I wanted more money and thought that I needed some, I was perfectly happy when I realised that I didn’t.

Sometimes we think we want something but then we get it and find that we don’t. Today, for instance, I bought a new t-shirt, got home, tried it on... and didn’t want it anymore. It looked good on the hanger but it just wasn’t ‘me’. The idea is often more attractive than the reality, isn’t it?

Now, as a small child, my mum repeatedly told me that, “I want doesn’t get.” Instead of heeding this lesson in verbal etiquette, I, naturally, misunderstood that statement as meaning that I couldn’t get what I wanted. That old chestnut still haunts me from time-to-time. Thinking about it now, would my requesting, “Please may I have” mean that I can ‘have what I may please’?

What’s interesting when you look at the etymology of the word ‘want’ is that the meaning we know well today – ‘to desire, wish for’ – wasn’t even recorded until 1706. Before that, it actually meant ‘to be lacking’ (coming from the Old Norse vanta, meaning ‘to lack, want’). Maybe my mum was right, after all... it doesn’t seem an appropriate word to use when seeking to acquire anything.

The word ‘need’ is no good, either. In Old English it was nied, and meant ‘necessity, compulsion, duty’; originally ‘violence, force’ (from nauthis – Old Norse nauðr). Common in Old English were expressions such as niedfaru ‘a compulsory journey’ (a euphemism for death); niedhæmed ‘rape’ (the second element being an Old English word meaning ‘sexual intercourse’); and needling, which meant ‘slave’. The Old English word for the whole shebang – ‘need, necessity and want’ – was ðearf, which became connected to nied via a notion of trouble and pain. The two then joined together, forming a new word niedðearf , meaning ‘need, necessity, compulsion, thing needed’. Need, then, implies a painful experience. It's interesting that the rune Nauthis, which means ‘constraint, necessity, pain’, is connected to need, which I hadn’t previously realised. Here it is:

‘Desire’, on the other hand, comes from the Latin desiderare, meaning ‘await what the stars will bring’, from the phrase de sidere ‘from the stars’. ‘Desire’ only became associated with lust by some pervert in the mid-14th century. Until then, it was perfectly innocent. From now on, I’m reclaiming its original usage in place of the ‘w’ word (which you will not hear from me again because it obviously doesn’t work for me).

Feeling a deep sense of centred-ness, as I currently do, I don’t really need anything, yet there are certain things that I desire, for sure. The desiring comes from my appreciation of life – I see something beautiful, I desire it, so that if it were to (metaphorically) knock on my door, I would smile and welcome it with arms open. Desire is fine just as long as you are indeed willing to ‘await what the stars will bring’. To deny desire is to lie to yourself.

What is your heart’s desire? Having it won't make you a ‘better person’; it may make you smile but it won’t improve you. What motivates us to desire anything, whether that’s a nice place to live, a hug, resolving a situation, freedom, friends, or consciousness, for example? Why do some people desire what others abhor? It’s not always something we desire for ourselves, either – we also desire others to have the things they desire. Beyond social conditioning, advertising, peer-pressure, etc., there is true desire – a deep wish from the soul.

When I’m off-centre, it’s usually because I draw spurious conclusions from not getting what I so desire and use it against myself to prove my unworthiness. This happens from time-to-time, and, when it does, it can have damaging consequences. What brings me back to my centre is when I can look at what IS, at what I have got – fully appreciate those things... and thus contentedly ‘await what the stars will bring’.

(And be careful what you desire, ‘cos you will get it.)


~ Karen

(Don't bother with the video - the song and the words are the thing in this case).

Joseph walked on and on

The sunset went down and down

Coldness cooled their desire

and Dawn said, "Let's build a fire."


The sun dressed the trees in green

and Joe said, "Dawn, I feel like a king"

and Dawn's neck and her feet were bare

Sweetness in her golden hair


Said, "I'm not scared"

Turned to her and smiled

Secrets in his eyes

Sweetness of desire


Is this desire, enough?

Enough to lift us higher,

to lift above ?


Hour long by hour,

may we two stand when we're dead,

between these lands

The sun set behind his eyes

And Joe said, "Is this desire?"


Is this desire, enough?

Enough to lift us higher, to lift above?

Is this desire, enough, enough

Enough inside?

Is this desire?


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