Vicki Robin

Enough

This is a service I prepared for the UU’s of South Whidbey Island that unpacks my notion of enough, starting with a song I wrote that holds the teaching for me. try this link to listen to it

I Have Enough, Do You?

By Vicki Robin

Excuse me sir, I know it’s impolite
But since kids are starving I thought I might
Just ask some folks to figure out rough
If they could possibly have enough
Sure more might be better but maybe it’s worse
Stuff taxes your serenity as well as your purse, so
Could you say as though it were true:

I have enough
I do,
I have enough,
do you?

Hello Mr. Buffet and Mr. Gates
I’m wondering if you could congregate
Billionaires like you who might have a few
More things than you’re needing and be needing nothing new
Since our forests are denuded and our waters are polluted
Could your fortunes be diluted and maybe contributed?
So would you say and have it be true:

I have Enough
I do
I have enough
Do you?

Excuse me Mrs. Bangaladeshi
I just have one very simple question
If you haven’t enough can we work together
If what I have will help you weather
Poverty and storms I’ll surely give
For you and your neighbors to love and live
So we all can say and know it is true:

You have enough
You do
You have enough
Yes you do

Hey everyone can you just guess
How we might live without the mess
Of some having lots, some having less
Let’s all have plenty but none excess
Forget lamb and lions lying down together
Can rich and poor learn to love each other
So we all can say and know it is true:

We have enough
We do
We have enough
We all do.

By Vicki Robin

If you want peace work for justice” -Pope Paul VI.

Goldilocks and Gandhi have both preached the gospel of enough. He said, “The world has enough for every man’s need, but not enough for every man’s need.” She said, “Not too hot, not too cold, but just right.”

Just right. Just enough. We know intuitively that justice must be a core value for our integrity, for our sanity and for our happiness.

But this begs the question that I now address through teleclasses where we explore; How much is enough? Of anything? And how do we know? And what happens next, once we have it?

A story:

At a conference on alternative economics- one that could have happened last year for newness of ideas but happened 20 years ago a thoughtful man told me this story about his own struggle to discover just how much was enough for him.

From time to time he goes to a rural monastery for a silent retreat. Meals are provided by the monks. The many acres of wooded land are laced with walking trails. There are several small sanctuaries with just a chair or two. Each room has a bed, a desk, a chair, a lamp, and no more. The atmosphere is one of silence and peace. On one retreat he asked himself, “If I knew that everyone in the world would have enough if I had only this much, would this be enough for me?” The answer was a clear “yes.”

While all of us at the table could identify with the simplicity of that vision, we went on to discuss what things we might add to support not only our spiritual nature, but our work and sense of community as well. A telephone. Certain books. Certain files. Another chair for a guest. A computer, perhaps. The more we added, the more difficult it was to draw the line. Where did necessity end and excess begin?

Let’s see if the song we started with can help us unpack that “how much is enough question.”

Excuse me sir, I know it’s impolite

Part of why  economic justice eludes us is that we can’t talk about money, which would be to talk about our status, our worth in the material world . It’s impolite. We make so many assumptions about what others have and don’t have and how they spend it and earn it… and we never dare ask. To reveal our own bundle would establish our place in the pecking order, to induce envy or embarrassment depending on what you think where you fall means. We value equality in this country and are loathe to face economic injustice. Thus we miss many injustices around us and project deprivation on people who out of dignity would spit on your for thinking that.

But since kids are starving I thought I might

So here’s the link between money and starvation. At a minimum, having money means that you can have access food without having to put up with abuse – be economically bound to a lousy  husband or having to pray before eating at a shelter.  Money is clean in that it is de-personal. However, t money isn’t just a means of exchange. There is unfairness embedded in how money is created and distributed that we mostly don’t know. It not only buys food, on a larger scale it gives the bearer the right to claim resources from the commons and make them his own. It gives power to possess the sources of production. For traditional cultures, that means landowners can drive subsistence farmers from their own land. Without land there is no fruit or vegetables, no cattle, no meat, no milk. So starving children cannot simply be fed by charity, by food distribution programs. They must be fed

Just ask some folks to figure out rough
If they could possibly have enough

Now here’s another rub. Many of us don’t keep our accounts very well. We make ends meet, with what’s in our wallets or with credit cards. We don’t do an annual review of fixed expenses. We turn a blind eye to what debt means – how much more we will pay later by paying the minimum now. You can’t know how much is enough without being accountable for the flow of money and stuff through your life. Figuring out how much is enough is a discipline that allows you to even think clearly about justice.

Sure more might be better but maybe it’s worse
Stuff taxes your serenity as well as your purse,

Here we are at another perplexity of economic justice. I happen to believe, along with the Dalai Lama and Jesus, that happiness, joy, contentment, is the bottom line. The universe is friendly, we all belong here, we’ve been given everything we need including empathy, to truly revel in the passage from birth to death.

So one yardstick for how much is enough is, “Does it make me happy?”

Ahh, now we have a further perplexity. What makes you happy? Many haven’t been paying attention. Perhaps even because our sense of the injustices in the world prevent us from enjoying the fruits of our own worthy actions. If we are miserable, if we feel guilty about what we have, if we divest ourselves of what we truly love because we want to make the world more just, we forget happiness. Social scientists have now helped us out, tho. Happiness they say is that exquisite moving target called current pleasure and future purpose. Does it feel good now and will it feel good over the long haul because it conforms with out values and goals.  If we fail to be happy now, all work and no play nakes jack a dull boy, we miss the mark. But also if we fail to value fairness, proportion, compassion – all the values that tend us towards justice, we also miss the mark.

Economic justice requires a lot more of us that it appears.

so
Could you say as though it were true:

I have enough
I do,
I have enough,
do you?

Could you say as though it were true – in other words, could you actually sincerely experience your enoughness such that you could declare it – and move on in your life. Not demanding of ourselves and others that we cut back to bare bones for the sake of justice, just asking for self examination.

Hello Mr. Buffet and Mr. Gates
I’m wondering if you could congregate
Billionaires like you

Well, here we are at the money system, the upward mobility of dollars to the owners of wealth. How did buffet and gates get to be billionaires. They had access to capital. This money, as some of you know, was not just stored in a vault somewhere and loaned to them because the banker thought their idea was a good risk. No, banks only have to have 10% of the money they loan in the vault, the rest they are permitted to make up out of thin air, out of the presumption that the ponzi scheme called money means that they can risk the loan because they’ll cover it with interest and repayments of prior loans and of course government guarantees. Not to go into this too much, but there is a “float” a sort of ocean of debt that simply moves around and allows business to happen. It is nothing more than faith that through economic growth the loans will be made good. It is based in trust in money. Nothing more. This ocean dried up in the fall of 2008. that was the financial crisis.

who might have a few
More things than you’re needing and be needing nothing new

how much is enough is truly a question for the rich, but very impolite. We believe that economic justice means that if we have the money, we have the right to buy and have anything we darn want. One of the great challenged of economic justice, as well as pulling back from our collective environmental debt, is that it is REALLY impolite to get between an American and his or her right to consume.
Since our forests are denuded and our waters are polluted
Could your fortunes be diluted and maybe contributed?

So this is all of our question. As owners of wealth – and all of us here in the US are owners of wealth that was not originally ours, how much of that do we release back to the commons to solve our common problems? And by what mechanism. Philanthropy which means the individual retains the right to assess where and how much of their money they want to donate, or by a democratic socialism like they have in Europe where taxes are high but health care for all is realized and vacations are long and luxurious and public services are many? All budgets, from personal to national, are really reckonings between resources and justice.
So would you say and have it be true:

I have Enough
I do
I have enough
Do you?

I mean, c’mon. would you join the body of humanity and share our common fate and bring the world back into balance. In the system as it is I can’t make you do that, but would you? Puleeze?

Excuse me Mrs. Bangaladeshi
I just have one very simple question
If you haven’t enough can we work together
If what I have will help you weather
Poverty and storms I’ll surely give
For you and your neighbors to love and live

Ahh, here we have the link between justice and relatedness. Respectfully we engage with those who seem to have so little that their lives are in jeopardy. We’re not talking about a solicitation in the mail, an end of the year reckoning with all those donation envelopes. This is a conversation with a real individual, and a sincere from the heart spreading out what we have to see if any of it will help them. And it is offering our most precious resource, our time, to someone for whom a little from us would mean a lot. We’ll work together. Not the rich and poor but partners in doing all that must be done. Lynne twist, an amazing fundraiser, contends that those with financial resources are lucky if they get to partner with people struggling with the conditions of poverty. One has the resource of money. The other has the resource of knowing what is needed. Together they can make a difference – and expand their hearts.

So we all can say and know it is true:

You have enough
You do
You have enough
Yes you do

Hey everyone can you just guess
How we might live without the mess
Of some having lots, some having less
Let’s all have plenty but none excess
Forget lamb and lions lying down together
Can rich and poor learn to love each other
So we all can say and know it is true:

We have enough
We do
We have enough
We all do.

Enough for Life

Ahh, here is the vision of a just world. The rich and poor loving one another. And living in peace, not just a bucolic peace of a rousseau painting, but PEACE, no fear because the gap between the rich and poor is back to a level of justice and we all know we have enough.

I am enough, I have enough, I do enough, just as I am.

We have enough, we do enough, we are enough to create a world where everyone has enough.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I’ve developed a pledge that may help guide people in finding peace with what they have and what they need:

I pledge to discover how much is enough for me

to be truly fulfilled, and to consume only that.

I also pledge to be part of the discovery

of how much would be enough for everyone

not only to survive but to thrive, and

to find ways for them to have access to that.

Through this commitment to restraint

and justice, I am healing my life

and am part of the healing of the world.

“Enoughness” isn’t something to “live up to” – it’s something to discover through the process of truthful and compassionate living.

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