Several years ago, I read a book whose author compared humans to bowls. His metaphor was that we were this empty vessel and our life was defined by how we went about filling our bowl. There was no escaping our innate hunger. We have to find something to fill our bowls, but we have many options about what could fill them. I’ll use three examples to elaborate about this “bowl filling” analogy.
Let’s take a school setting. Some seek to fill their bowl by excelling in the academics and they are rewarded by good marks. Some seek the best possible behavior, receiving accolades for their model behavior. Some seek attention by being the class clown and making others laugh. Others, generally those that haven’t achieved the other means, will find attention by misbehavior or rebellion. Once a certain path is established for “bowl filling” it is difficult to re-direct.
In a business setting, the bowl filling analogy applies to marketing and attention for a business. I recall a conversation with a prominent web CEO who insisted that any attention was good attention. I never fully accepted his reasoning, but his assertion is that a business needs to fill its bowl. Sure, it would be nice to be noticed for what good you did, but just being noticed, even for something salacious or potentially negative had value. You wanted to bring as many eyeballs to your product/site. My opinion was that was a double edged sword, in that the wrong kind of attention or audience could undermine your business.
In a relationship setting, society suggests we seek out that one partner. The common wisdom being that there is greater depth and satisfaction gained from one quality partner than from multiple casual or fleeting ones. In theory, I believe this is wise for most people, but it makes a big assumption, that that one partner will continue to fill the bowl of their partner. The need for “bowl filling” never dissipates. When the partner doesn’t fill their partner’s bowl, the other partner might seek other options to fill their bowl. The bowl filling can be emotional, mental, material or physical.
The “bowl filling” analogy can be applied to our motivations for playing poker, too. For some, poker is a challenging game to master. For some, poker is a means to enrich ourselves and serve our material needs. For others, poker serves as a means to seek attention and accolades for our achievements. There are even others that see poker as a rebellion and means of avoiding authority and pursuing their freedom. One means isn’t exclusive of another as we achieve to fill our bowl.
The author’s conclusion was that we benefit from paying close attention to how we go about filling our bowls. We can very easily fall into unproductive habits of filling our bowls; means that prove destructive toward our long term goals and needs. He recognized that when we are in deficit, we will go for the quick fix, regardless of its damaging long term affects. He felt some methods of “bowl filling” are more lasting and less ephemeral. But there is no escaping that longing to fill the bowl feeling. It only changes some with age, perspective and circumstance. While habits and patterns are easily established, they aren’t set in stone.
We are our own agents of action. The more we are aware of our needs and how we go about filling them, the more pro-active we can be in seeing how they are met. Identifying and recognizing the ephemeral methods of “bowl filling” is the first step to restructuring our patterns in a more healthy direction. Realizing and accepting how needy we all are, how our bowls need to be continually refilled, is the crucial step to beginning to understand our human condition. Our egos are often the enemy of this process of self realization.