Enough…already

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

8 Replies to “Enough…already”

  1. A very thought provoking message. The melange of economics, behavioural science, anecdotes & personal experiences not only validates what you say but makes it an.interesting read. Agree completely with you and would like to add that the day one decides to put “brakes” in one’s life, that day would definitely be a life changer…

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  2. Very nice message in today’s rat race – we cant resist yeh dil mange more syndrome and loose happiness in what we have already accomplished

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  3. Sometimes people indulge in excesses not for happiness but out of habit or addiction. They know the next bite of their favorite snack will give them indigestion, yet they cannot help themselves. This is more of a lack of discipline than craving for happiness. That’s why people go for detoxification camps, wellness retreats etc. – to learn discipline. This means one cannot generally decide when enough is enough. Some other party needs to tell or show them. Moderation in everything is a good habit to follow. If inculcated in childhood, and reiterated time and again in adulthood by friends and family it serves well throughout life.

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    1. Nilambari the point about excess indulgence is valid. Sad part is that though I know it is bad for me I do not stop. Smoking is a classic cas. Intellectually all of know the ill effects. But still it is habit or addiction that keeps us from giving up. ( Vinita will say the same thing about my fondness for the Buddha Baba aka Old Monk). Regret beg to differ about “other people need to tell” . Finally finally it is me who needs to say enough. Then only the change happens in a detox or wellness camp. At times external facilitation and enablement helps. I do not deny that. But the penny has to still click in my mind for me to do anything : continue my excess or stop!!! I am a “fulltu” proponent of free will and adult responsibility. I make the grave I lie in. Love vikas

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  4. Class… πŸ‘ŒπŸΌπŸ‘ŒπŸΌπŸ‘ŒπŸΌ
    Wish more people got this funda, and knew when and where to draw the line… the world would be that much more of a happier place… πŸ‘πŸΌπŸ‘πŸΌπŸ‘πŸΌ

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    1. Thanke Ameya. Yes we seem so caught up in the “more” phenomena that we do not even halt to enjoy what we have. Satisfaction is always a mental state easily within our reach. But we ourselves make it so complicated!!!

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