Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Enough is Enough

What is enough?

There’s a story about a billionaire giving a party on one of the New York islands a few years ago. Authors and friends Kurt Vonnegut (Breakfast of Champions, Slaughterhouse Five, and others) and Joseph Heller (Catch 22) are talking. Vonnegut tells Heller that the guy giving the party made more money in one day than Heller had made in the whole history of Catch 22. Heller famously replied, “Yes, but I have something he will never have…enough.”

The story comes from a book, Enough, by John Bogle, former CEO of The Vanguard Group and the inventor of the index mutual fund; a very rich guy. Bogle’s 2007 book was an effort to help the financial wizards who pushed the economy into the mess it’s in now understand that it ain’t all about them getting embarrassingly rich. Bogle wanted to help them think about how much is enough.

You are reading this blog so you probably have enough. You are able to read; you have access to miraculous technology; more than likely you are decently fed; you probably sleep in a warm, safe place with little worry that people will come to your home and try to kill you; and more than likely, you have people who love you (however difficult it may be for you and them at some times). Anything over and above those blessings is a bonus.

Roger Thurow and Scott Kilman, award-winning writers, have written another book titled Enough. It’s a searing indictment of the policies and attitudes that have created a world in which we have enough food for everyone but 25,000 people starve every day. They point to why, on a basic level, millions of people don’t have enough.

Obviously, the two Enough books are at opposite ends of life's money/stuff/blessings continuum.

So, what is enough for you and me? I have waaaaay too many books, CDs, movies, files, pictures…too much stuff. I eat too much, drink too much, smoke too many cigars, piddle away emotional energy, and am not focused enough. What’s enough for me?

I’ve been thinking for months that my main goal in life right now is to have a feeling of contentment that includes relationships, work, and the home environment in which I live. It’s not that I want to be giving up, or slowing down, or settling, or going survivalist. And it isn’t that I don’t understand that at some future date the enough of now might not be enough then…or, it might be too much and it’s time to pare down. What I’ve come to understand is that the energy I’m frittering away in so many areas could be focused on a few issues that matter to me and in which I can make a difference.

Life is flying by.

What is enough? And if you can identify it, are you willing to be satisfied with it?

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