Enough

by Eric Alan
December 11, 2016
Enough

I’ve seen a lifetime of cartoon variations on the theme of seeking wisdom from a mountaintop guru. I’ve spent the same lifetime seeking wisdom from the mountains themselves, and never once have I found a guru there. This summer in Montana, though, I found a goat. 

In thinking about what it means to have enough, that proves to be enough. It’s something I find myself reflecting upon again as the holiday season arrives, with all of its enticements to purchase more. 

This particular goat spent the entire afternoon sitting in a single place, overlooking the majesty of Glacier National Park. He did not seem to mind the human hikers passing by, nor the traffic on the road through his homeland. He had a comfortable place to sit. He had sunshine to bask in. He was in a place he belonged. He had a phenomenal view. He must have had enough to eat, because although the years had clearly worn on him, he was still solid, basking, watching, looking content. He did not seem to need any of the things humans are bent on chasing in our endless, often fruitless pursuit of what we believe to be happiness.  

I sat near him and watched. It was indeed enough to leave me thoughtful about enough.

Times of imbalance give the illusion of overall scarcity. Unequal distribution leaves true scarcity for some. And when too much collides with too little, it somehow gets hard to remember that either can be just as troubling. Abundance can be as jarring and as paralyzing to choice as scarcity can. Riches can obscure the knowledge that our happiest and simplest times are when we have just enough.

To become monetarily rich has never been a goal of mine, although neither would I object to it if I could still live in a simple way. As Pablo Picasso supposedly said, “I’d like to live like a poor man, except with a lot of money.” 

When I was young and financially impoverished and yet feeling without lack, I realized that my feelings of having enough were almost completely disconnected from my income. If to be rich is to have more than you really need, there are two ways to be rich: one is to have quite a bit; the other is to need very little. The latter is much more easily accomplished, and considerably less stressful besides. Ask the goat.

I set out to live cheaply back then and never looked back. At first it was necessity, but necessity turned magically to joy. 

Having enough is mostly not about money anyway—money is the most narrow measure of riches I can imagine. Enough means enough shelter, food and health; enough understanding and love both given and received. Enough means enough air and space to breathe it. Enough time to think, to feel, to wonder; to remember what stillness is, to experience it. Enough is enough time with loved ones, deep in the beauty of the world. 

Enough is enough gratitude for the highs and lows of this imperfect life. Enough said.

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Thanks for this outstanding blog, Eric, and its poignant message for all of us. Your last paragraph put everything into perspective. Thinking that the"grass is greener on the other side of the fence" is something that a lot of us have thought of as enticement to improve our lives. In essence, it only creates a false hope for something that in the end will never sooth our soul and make us content. I will bookmark/copy this and read it often to remind myself just want it takes to have "enough". The older I get the clearer that picture is. Many thanks, Eric. One of your best blogs and I love all of them!

A brother-in -law with a high paying job once told me that the more you make the more you spend.He was implying that more money wasn't the answer, the answer was doing well with what you had. This column echoes that same sentiment. Although I'm not rich by any standard I'm comfortable and don't have any outstanding needs. A long time ago I made some decisions that provide a comfortable retirement, for that I'm grateful in many ways.

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