Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Enough is enough

I was enjoying some MP3's on a car trip this weekend. One was Sarah Susanka, of the The Not So Big House fame, who has now written The Not So Big Life. The other was Barbara Kingsolver reading from her new book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. They both talk about enough, and what happened to having it.

Susanka put it this way in an interview I heard: "The idea of enough, I think about it this way. In our species historically, everything has been geared up to getting enough: enough shelter, enough food, and enough security. So we have been focused on this as a species, but we have no model for what happens when we get enough. So we seek more, more shelter, more food, more security. And we keep doing it. We see enormous houses ... shopping ... we are accumulating stuff as if it is going to bring us meaning. That is the model for our society these days. If we stop and ask, do I have enough ... we may find we are spending more energy seeking more than we need. Is there a way to use the energy in another way? Where is meaningfulness in our lives? "

Enough used to be enough. In the great American landscape, though, enough seems to be in a constant state of re-definition. Enough is being replaced by more. And plenty is never enough either. Seems like the scale is always changing.

Our neighborhood used to be made of houses and yards that were enough. Now someone is raising the stakes and placing huge houses next door to a house that was enough. And then they call the old house inadequate.

What changed? The house was there since it was built as a recovery house in the 1940s. Proud owners have come through and added their touches and changing needs to it. And now it sits beside a misplaced giant, one that is clearly over the top, and speculators tell us that the huge house is the future, the enough house is the past, and my neighborhood should get over it. When society keeps redefining enough in order to make more money by selling more of the stuff to people who do not need it, we all lose.

Enough is enough.

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