Enough is Enough!

Enough!  Enough burning with greed, hatred, and aversion—enough reaching for more while trashing or overlooking what is here and now.  This is the groundswell message from the growing Occupy Movement and its spiritual offshoots:  Occupy Yourself, Occupy Your Mind, Occupy Your Heart, Occupy the Moment, and probably more to come. There is widespread questioning.   At times the question seems to arise from the Earth itself.  Can we begin to live another way? Can we be cool and put out the fire, replacing greed and fear with compassion and generosity? Can we let enough be enough?  This is definitely possible at moments.

I saw this yesterday, at lunch in a cozy Italian restaurant in Nyack, New York.   My friend and Parabola colleague David showed a few of us how our upcoming holiday online auction is shaping up.  I was blown away by the spirit of generosity that infused the whole project.   I felt very much as I did during the blackout, that I was watching the glimpsing the spontaneous arising of goodness and generosity—beautiful works of art and crafts and services being offered.   Do scroll through it when it goes up on our website just after Thanksgiving: you will be watching a beautiful and diverse community unfold.  Forgive me, I just can’t resist seeing it as a kind of gentle Occupy Parabola movement.  Even if you don’t, you may be filled, as I was, with a sense of beauty and bounty, of enough.

Enoughness, the coolness of generosity and compassion compared to the fire of greed and hate, these are not new ideas.  Jesus and Buddha went about occupying various places, urging people to stop being so grasping and blind to what really matters.  In our own time, environmentalists and deep ecologists and economists and all kinds of people have been trying to get our attention.  Years ago, when I was at Publishers Weekly, I remember reviewing a book by Bill McKibben called Enough.  In that book, the ecologist reported from the frontiers of genetic research, nanotechnology and robotics (which have advanced considerably since the book was published in 2003, rendering it yesterday’s journalism). What remains interesting is that McKibben sought what he called the “enough point.”

What sets a human being apart from other beings, McKibben argued–and many more are arguing this now–is our capacity for restraint-and for finding  meaning in letting go. “We need to do an unlikely thing,” writes McKibben. “We need to survey the world we now inhabit and proclaim it good. Good enough.” McKibben presents an uncompromising view, and an essential view. I realized on the way home from lunch yesterday that even if I did have the option of becoming a pain-free, all-but-immortal, genetically enhanced semi-robot (which is the kind of improbable world McKibben portrays) it would be nothing compared to being an ordinary human being who knows she will grow old and die; yet who can find happiness and meaning—and even a huge charge, literally a current of energy–in the face of that.  In certain moments, I know we are all connected, and all charging, enlivening one another, and all of us supported by a greater whole—and it is good.  Good Enough.

3 thoughts on “Enough is Enough!

  1. Hi Tracy

    “Can we be cool and put out the fire, replacing greed and fear with compassion and generosity? Can we let enough be enough? This is definitely possible at moments.”

    Perhaps we can on Monday. But then on Tuesday someone looks at another the “wrong” way and it begins again. It is human nature. The only thing it seems that can arise from the earth are influences of universal laws that assure everything turns in circles and repeats.

    If you are interested in why it will never be “enough” read this excellent article on Simone Weil’s ideas concerning social force. It is very thought provoking. It helped me to further understood why prestige is the primary source of secular societal motivation.


    “As fatalistic as Weil’s political analysis appears on the surface, her intentions are far from morose. Her writings strive to turn us from the false images of the limelight (Plato’s Cave) to the quiet beauty of that Light which the darkness cannot overcome. For Weil, the love of God permeates every molecule in creation. But the operations of God’s grace transpire in secret, like the chlorophyll which secretly transforms the light of the sun into food for the plant kingdom (a favorite metaphor of Weil’s). The kingdom of God is indeed everywhere and thus a cause for constant rejoicing. However, if prestige is synonymous with “social visibility,” then the kingdom of God is synonymous with “social invisibility.” Christ often referred to the secret nature of the kingdom of heaven as leaven hidden in flour or a treasure hidden in a field (Matt. 13:33,44). The works of the kingdom are omnipresent, yet they are hidden from the world of celebrity. The Father who works in secret, rewards his followers in secret (Matt. 6:18).”

    It seems that it is only through the light of grace from above that society as a whole will not continue as a slave to the struggle for prestige and the “burning with greed, hatred, and aversion—enough reaching for more while trashing or overlooking what is here and now.”

    It doesn’t “feel good” to admit the attraction of brutality but as usual Simone doesn’t allow a person to hide behind platitudes. She wrote:

    “Let us not think that because we are less brutal, less violent, less inhuman than our opponents we will carry the day. Brutality, violence, and inhumanity have an immense prestige that schoolbooks hide from children, that grown men do not admit, but that everyone bows before. For the opposite virtues to have as much prestige, they must be actively and constantly put into practice. Anyone who is merely incapable of being as brutal, as violent, and as inhuman as someone else, but who does not practice the opposite virtues, is inferior to that person in both inner strength and prestige, and he will not hold out in . . . a confrontation.”

    This is not politically correct to say but there is nothing all that attractive about a gathering of people all BSing about how the world is “good.” Any kid active in the world knows it is just BS. The only thing that can provide light comes from experiential sincerity.

    “Human beings are so made that the ones who do the crushing feel nothing; it is the person crushed who feels what is happening. Unless one has placed oneself on the side of the oppressed, to feel with them, one cannot understand.” Simone Weil

    Which is more attractive over time: wonderful thoughts or meaningful actions?

    The world is what it is. The problem seems to be developing the quality of attention necessary to see it for what it is.

    1. Hi Nick,

      Sorry for the delay in responding–a friend recently called me “Our Lady of Perpetual Responsibility.” The point you raise are really interesting but it’s important to remember there are cracks in the world of celebrity–and there can be very small meaningful acts. There are more moments now when I can receive what life offers without straining after better conditions or more prestige–and moments when I can respond right in the moment. Just moments, mind you. But those times of giving–and I mean small, just a word or attention without speaking–show me that another way of life is possible, open to grace. In short, I don’t think everyone is lost to the sway of mere wonderful thoughts. I see evidence of a wish to live another way in others and in myself.

  2. Hi Tracy

    I didn’t mean to imply that there is no hope for individuality.

    When I first read “In Search of the Miraculous” I was struck by this idea that though society is trapped in the world, the individual has possibilities for conscious freedom.

    I do believe that Parabola can be an influence to awaken the call “to be” which is why I think it was begun years ago. The question is how best to do it.

    For example I see that Parabola is planning an issue on Science and Religion. How to organize it so that it is neither too wonderful or too dry but in a way that vivifies their natural relationship denied by many in the world but IMO essential understanding on the path “to be” as a whole person of responsibility in the modern world?

    “He who possesses art and science has religion; he who does not possess them, needs religion.” Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

    I agree that these moments of freedom are very meaningful but I believe it necessary to experience our resistance to them which many in modern New Age movements for example seek to suppress through interpretation.

    Don’t get me wrong. I genuinely respect your concern for society and the world as it is. I’m a chess player and willing to admit a lost position. That is why I further conscious individuality with the willingness as Simone said to “annoy the Beast.” It is through their conscious quality that the descending slide of a natural cycle, such as the mechanical descent into war is made less harmful.

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