How much is enough?

How much is enough? Money, affection, power? When should a person lean back and exclaim that now there is enough? The lines between sufficient and excess are so blurred that they can no longer define either amount. So we keep sloughing and we keep hoping for more and then some more after that. Why? Most often because the neighbor has more; the term ‘neighbor’ itself assuming biblical distinctions. It can even mean an online buddy I have never met on the other side of the planet and who, in all probability, I will never meet in reality. Yet his influence is enough to create a feigned sensation of deficit.

When do I stop accumulating and enjoy what I already have? Never. The fulfillment of one pursuit unveils privations in other quarters, often branching out in so many directions that even the concept of sufficiency is futile. Directions, items, comfort, possessions. I think they are synonymous here. Now, if I was the only deranged soul who thought like this, perhaps I would try and deliberate my own conjectures. But when the rest of the world is way ahead of me in assuming this philosophy, its either go-with-the-flow or be left behind.

Left behind in what? Rat race? More likely a Lemmings race since rats are too smart to jump off cliffs to certain doom. Its easy to live in comfort and peace but very hard to live like everyone else. The price of equality is often a peptic ulcer compounded by high blood pressure leading to an early grave.

The Zen masters recognized this danger with keeping the material connections rooted in accumulation. While esoteric knowledge can be just as obsessive as material wealth, its metaphysical essence rules out coveting after it. If it can’t be seen or touched, the neighbor won’t lust after it. But the pursuit of knowledge can be more obsessive because of the absence of any quantifiers. Marlow’s Faustus comes to mind.

As far as I can tell, there is no way out of this. The overall entropy of the universe must always be positive. And there is no better way to stir up life’s nest of hornets than by giving the neighbors something to strive for even if the driving force is unadulterated envy. And in formation of a society’s intrinsic doctrines, our forefathers decided that it would be better this way. At least there would be recordable progress. Things did work well for us till the last century or so when the breadth of possibilities hyperboled. The system didn’t break down, it just went into overdrive. It doesn’t look like its going to be slowing down anytime soon.

Perhaps it shouldn’t slow down. Now there is a new pattern emerging. Selective grandstanding. There is just too much choice and too many possessions for anyone to accumulate. Whereas earlier the choices were limited to cattle, castles and carats, now its no longer possible to even imagine the overabundance of availability. New niches are being formed every day. Some are forced through lifestyle requirements while others are choices based on personal tastes. But each and every one of us is clear about one thing, we can’t have it all and we can’t take it all. Since mankind controls its own environment, we have outgrown the need for physical evolution so finally this is the first stirring of our cerebral evolution destined to preserve the future of all humans. I certainly hope so.

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