We all are familiar with that famous Tolstoy story where a man was promised he can have as much land as he could cover with his feet from the break of dawn till the sun set. He ran and ran, wanting to cover as much ground as he could in the limited time he had at his disposal. He did not halt to catch his breath, take rest or refreshment, as he thought in that time he could cover some more ground. He ignored his exhaustion and ran. At the time the sun was about to set,the man was far from the starting point and to get back before sunset, he pushed himself so hard that he was dead when the sun finally set. Why O Why did he not cry “enough” sometime before?
We all are guilty of the same approach. We all want more: that one more elusive toffee, one more toy, one more fancy dress, one more….”what have you”. Not only as children, but even as adults, we run behind the chimera of “more”. Better company, fancier designation/title, more money, more luxury and more happiness. Unfortunately our very happiness now gets defined materialistically: bigger house, bigger car, bigger bank balance, exotic holidays, more investments and all that. At no stage we are ready to stop and say I have enough already; do I need more? Finally in the Tolstoy story the man was buried in a 6 foot by 3 grave. That much land was enough! But then, he was dead!! For us, the living, there is nary a pause. We never feel we have enough, we want more. Bigger, Better, Fancier, Costlier …keep us on that perpetual treadmill.
The orthodox economists like Lionel Robbins’ talk of the “scarce means having alternative uses” laid the foundation for modern economists studying man’s unlimited wants and needs. Could this be the precursor of our unsatisfied hunger and consumerism? Even the traditionalists recognized man’s needs are unlimited, and it is ingrained in his nature to try and satisfy his “unlimited” needs. Gossen’s First Law – more popularly known as the law of diminishing marginal utility – is also about having the next rossogolla after your stomach is full. It has diminishing marginal utility, compared to the first rossogolla you ate on an empty stomach,or the second, or the n-th rosogolla: but again you are calculating the utility of the next one, of one more..and so it goes on.
Rather than the “dismal” science of economics, even if we turn to folklore or for that matter to more recent behavioral sciences, we still do not get a logical and complete answers for that inner desire of man to not say “enough” and still look for the next juicier deal, the newer automobile, or the more adventurous ride. It seems the nature of man to be unsatisfied with what he has, and look for the next big thing around the corner. All that a man possesses seems to fuel his drive further and his desire for accumulation, desires perpetually grow.
Question: is this the way to happiness? Then Bill Gates as the richest man on earth or Warren Buffet who is able to increase his wealth year on year should be satiated by now? Mukesh Ambani or Azim Premji have they said “enough”? At what point does Mr Vishal Sikka say “no more salary increase” ?
The thought I want to leave the readers with is that these are personal decisions : you draw your own line to say enough. No one else can decide for you. My happiness is finally my call. I decide at what level I am happy. I decide when I can say enough. Otherwise this chase has no end point. I may enjoy my Old Monk very much. But after 2/3 pegs I must say I have had enough. Cardinal utility or Marginal utility : there is a limit, and as long as I understand my limit: I am happy. So let Mr Ambani and Billu Badshah and Sikka saab draw their own lines. I echo the famous country song of Don Williams ” I have quite enough to live…and my mind is free”. Very aptly this albumn is called “Miracles”. Knowing you have enough is the royal road to happiness and peace.
Let me end with an anecdote of a favorite author of mine Mr Joseph Heller of “Catch 22” fame. He was once invited to a Manhattan penthouse party at the swank residence of a very successful hedge fund billionaire manager: much like our own Mukeshbhai’s Antillia. Someone took a dig at Heller and said “do you realize our host makes more money in one day than you make in a lifetime selling your books?” Heller’s nonchalant reply: “I know. But I have something that he will never have” “And what is that?” To which, Heller’s epic rejoinder “Enough”.
In gratitude, as “I have quite enough to live” : vikas