Enough is a beautiful concept. I see it as a crossroads, a place where so many issues come together and enjoy the harmony of each other’s company before sadly being driven on by ambition. Enough, believe it or not, is a place where you can settle down and live your life. Enough lives at an address that the credit card companies don’t have, and so their statements never come. Rather than taking up your time, Enough gives back your time so you can spend it with your loved ones, and it gives you the presence of mind to know who they are and aren’t. Enough doesn’t put you into a higher tax bracket. Enough doesn’t spread you thin.
Enough doesn’t thirst for more oil or more gas or more spilled blood. Enough doesn’t require you stay late at your job, in fact it forbids it.
I first learned the virtues of enough in a book called Your Money Or Your Life. The basic concept is that we’re allowing our unconscious “need” for more and more to work us like slaves. It examines the taboo against getting off the treadmill or even slowing down. If I had been listening more closely in church I would have learned about it in Jesus’ words and actions. But the Muslims and Jews know about enough also, and of course our friends the Buddhists. In fact every known religion and every known culture seems to have a concept of enough. And yet, in the process of making all our gains and advances America has led the world in our quest to abolish the concept.
Think about it, in our country slowing down is a sign of old age. We stop working when we’re older (“if you’re lucky,” some might snicker.) And so, old age is associated with no longer being productive, with no longer having life, with falling out of contact with the fashion of life.
But if we examine it truly, we will see that all of these attributes that we attach to the advancement of years might equally apply to someone relatively young. How many of us are already non-productive? Sure we make a mad flurry of our motions, we talk about being fragmented and complain of our seemingly non-stop multi-tasking, but how many of us really get something done in a day? It’s a question we have been trained to defend ourself against. On top of it, add this question: How many of us really enjoy each day? Which question is more important? Which is enough?
One more than enough, the writers of YMOYL tell us, is too much. This was the mantra of Thoreau when he went off to live in the woods. Among other things he was trying to find the line between enough and too much so that he could live on the better side of it. What do we really need? This question seems to lead us to all the right places. Imagine cutting out the noise. Clearing away the clutter. Thoreau and other writers like him give us this permission.
But I don’t need permission, most American’s cry. We just take what we want. Yeah, baby that’s The American Way! It certainly is. It’s not that Americans are bad, we’re just lost, we’re trapped by our drive and (the word no longer fits) economy. We do need permission to cut out the noise and complexity that our lives have become. You better believe it, when your next-door neighbor has not one but two, it’s hard to justify getting rid of yours.
The writers of Your Money Or Your Life suggest that perhaps GNP (Gross National Product) the indicator that seems to suggest that America keeps getting better and better, might give way to a better and more honest measuring stick. Their suggested measure is one of quality of life that we are striving to enjoy. Maybe going back to enough rather than too many of some things would allow us more time to enjoy the things we really love.
Few of us realize, when we see the constantly rising GNP numbers that things such as pharmaceutical sales, mental counseling, and toxic waste cleanup as well as many other expensive band-aids for societies ills go into the number. More is not always necessarily better.
What if we could measure the feeling of not having to worry about healthcare, crime, dependance on limited natural resources.
Twice as much ain’t twice as good
and can’t sustain like one-half could
It’s wanting more that’s gonna bring me to my knees
-John Mayer, Gravity