Thursday, December 15, 2011

Less is More and the Concept of Enough

Lately I've been pondering the concept of enough. For many years now this country has held the philosophy that more is better. More money, bigger cars, bigger houses, larger portions, big box stores, more possessions, larger screens, more options, etc., etc. Corporations want to make more and more profits. When is it enough? Is there ever an enough?

A friend once told me a story about an experience he had on an island off of Papua New Guinea many years ago. He was with some native young men out in the forest. I can't remember if they were hiking or hunting or what. They stopped to make a fire. As the fire got going my friend started to add more wood. "No, don't do that," the boys said, "that is Enough". They lived on a small island, fuel wood was scarce, and from a young age they had internalized the concepts of conservation and sufficiency.

The Pre-Columbian native people of our country seemed to be innately conservation-minded as well. It would be crazy for anyone with a subsistence-based life tied to the land to be wasteful. But the conception of limitless resources and the ways of wastefulness and poor stewardship seem like such an inherent part of the collective American psyche. 

I think about the native folks living here just 500 years ago in this country. Their concept of enough was so tied to food, water, and fuel wood; the resources needed to get through the year. I can relate to this feeling when it comes to firewood. We heat almost exclusively with wood and much time and energy is expended to procure it. What a wonderful feeling when it is all split and stacked tightly in the shed. Ahhh, we have Enough to make it through the winter!
Our modern day concept of enough is complicated by money and the uncertainty of the "economy" and by unknown college expenses, health care, and "retirement". It is hard sometimes to really know what is enough when it comes to these things. But there are many day to day things where this concept of enough can be applied. An example that comes to mind around Christmas time involves excessive giving of presents, especially to children. Does a child really need 27 gifts? Could 1 or 2 or 3 be Enough? Could the few even be appreciated more than the many? Other examples for the exploration of Enough might include food, alcohol, technology, clothes, cars, power consumption; consumption in general.

A long ago friend's parents had the word PLENTY carved on a shelf in their kitchen. I try to embrace the concept of Plenty in my life especially as it relates to food and love and time. It is tied to the concept of Enough. Plenty is Enough's generous cousin.

We on this planet Earth have to realize that we ALL live on an island; an island in space, and that our resources are finite and precious. We in the U.S. need to stop using more than our share. Individuals and corporations need to re-examine the paradigm of continuous expansion. It's like that top 1% trying to hang on to every cent of their tremendous wealth as if their lives depended upon it. As if it were their food stores or firewood for the winter instead of the obscene surplus it is hard for most of us to imagine. (Oh, oops, I'm gravitating toward the political. But even food, my neutral topic, can be political.)

I believe there can still be Plenty for everyone if we can re-discover and re-define the concept of Enough.

My son's kindergarten class sang this song for their holiday concert today:

It's a world of laughter, a world of tears
It's a world of hope and a world of fears
There's so much that we share
That it's time we're aware
It's a small world after all...

Okay, well that was a big topic for the kind of time I have to post. I have written Enough. On another note our family is embarking on a 15-day road trip in a couple of days and will return early in the new year. I'm not sure whether I will have a chance to post along the way so there may be a Farm Girl Blog lull but I am excited about continuing my new hobby in 2012! I wish everyone a holiday season of Enough and Plenty!



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