I rarely read self-help books, but I saw a story in TIME magazine about Brene Brown and decided to get one of her books. After reading some Amazon reviews, I settled on "Daring Greatly."
It's mainly about the courage to be vulnerable, to take chances even when the odds are against us, to reveal ourselves honestly without a guarantee that other people will like what they see.
Brown brings up scarcity in an introductory chapter.
Given the topics I study, I know I'm onto something when folks look away, quickly cover their faces with their hands, or respond with "ouch, "shut up," or "get out of my head." The last is normally how people respond when they hear or see the phrase: Never ___________ enough. It only takes a few seconds before people fill in the blanks with their own tapes:
-- Never good enough
-- Never perfect enough
-- Never thin enough
-- Never powerful enough
-- Never successful enough
-- Never smart enough
-- Never safe enough
-- Never extraordinary enough
...The counterapproach to living in scarcity is not about abundance. In fact, I think abundance and scarcity are two sides of the same coin. The opposite of "never enough" isn't "abundance" or "more than you could ever imagine." The opposite of scarcity is enough, or what I call Wholeheartedness.
As I explained in the Introduction, there are many tenets of Wholeheartedness, but at its very core is vulnerability and worthiness: facing uncertainty, exposure, and emotional risks, and knowing that I am enough.
Today is the Thanksgiving holiday in the United States. Many holidays are rather strange -- Christmas features Santa Claus, and Easter the Easter Bunny -- but Thanksgiving projects its own strong scent of strangeness.
This morning one of the two newspapers we get, the Salem and Portland papers, had to be put in our mailbox because each of the newspapers was super-thick, being filled with a large number of advertisements for post-Thanksgiving "Black Friday" sales.
So while Thanksgiving Day itself is billed as a time to get together with friends and relatives over a tasty turkey dinner (being vegetarians, my wife and I get a meatless roast), with at least some of the talk being about what people are thankful for, the next day starts off a pre-Christmas shopping season in which buy, buy, buy and more, more more drowns out the we're thankful for what we've already got vibe of Thanksgiving.
Our consumer-driven economy is fed by more, not by enough.
Now, I'm not saying that wanting more is a bad thing. It is very much a good thing when a lack prevents someone from being able to enjoy life.
We need more food when we're frequently hungry. We need more money when we're always broke. We need more friends when we're feeling lonely. We need more purpose when life seems meaningless. We need more health care when we're sick and can't get medical treatment.
The list goes on, and on, and on of important human needs that require more to make them right. However, as Brown observes, there's also many times when we feel that something is lacking in our life -- a scarcity -- though actually it is difficult, if not impossible, to point to a genuine lack.
The lack really isn't in ourselves, but in our response to a cultural or societal expectation.
This is how, as an atheist who deconverted from religiosity after 35 years of believing that I lacked God (Eastern mystical variety), I've come to look upon religion. There are genuine human needs that religions fulfill. Yet there also are needs founded in a spurious sense of scarcity that require skepticism.
Here's some examples of what I consider to be spurious needs: requiring salvation; forgiveness of sins; protection from the Devil; having an afterlife in heaven rather than hell; feeling part of a "chosen people," being told what morality consists of; learning about the nature of reality from a holy book rather than science; having the Big Questions of Life answered by a religious authority figure rather than by ourselves.
On the positive side, and I'm basing what I say on those 35 years of mostly feel-good moments as a religious person, here's some examples of genuine needs that a religion can fulfill: feeling part of a caring community; celebrating together via rituals, ceremonies, and group meetings; opening ourselves up to the majestic mystery of existence; asking the Big Questions, even if persuasive answers are lacking.
I realize that many people are going to disagree with my take on spurious versus genuine reasons for being religious.
If someone considers that God is unquestionably an objective fact, rather than a subjective belief or unproven hypothesis, then they're going to look upon what I just said with decidedly skeptical eyes. I'm just speaking about how I see things, which is all any of us can do.