Back in my religious-believing days, I would have viewed this as a sign from God. Now, I just see it as an interesting coincidence. But who knows? Maybe it is a sign from God!
Last week I'd scribbled on a large post-it note some of what Sam Harris had said in a guided meditation of his Waking Up app, then stuck the note next to books that I read every morning before meditating. It quoted Harris as saying:
The goal of meditation is to realize that consciousness as it is, is good enough. Not waiting for something to happen.
I planned to write about "good enough" today in a churchless post. Since I'd been reading about Zen recently, this morning I picked up a book that I'd set aside during my Zen phase: Question Everything, a collection of brief essays from the New York Times philosophy series.
A bookmark I'd put in Question Everything led me to the next essay that I hadn't read yet. The title that leapt out at me was "The Good-Enough Life" by Avram Alpert. I'll share the passages that I highlighted.
Ideals of greatness cut across the American political spectrum... The desire for greatness also unites the diverse philosophical camps of Western ethics.
Aristotle called for practicing the highest virtue. Kant believed in an ethical rule so stringent not even he thought it was achievable by mortals. Bentham's utilitarianism is about maximizing happiness. Marx sought the great world for all. Modern-day libertarians will stop at nothing to increase personal freedom and profit.
These differences surely matter, but while the definition of greatness changes, greatness itself is sought by each in his own way.
Swimming against the tide of greatness is a counter-history of ethics embodied by schools of thought as diverse as Buddhism, Romanticism, and psychoanalysis. It is by borrowing from D.W. Winnicott, an important figure in the development of psychoanalysis, that we get perhaps the best name for this other ethics: "the good-enough life."
...To fully become good enough is to grow up into a world that is itself good enough, that is as full of care and love as it is suffering and frustration.
From Buddhism and Romanticism we can get a fuller picture of what such a good enough world could be like. Buddhism offers a criticism of the caste system and the idea that some people have to live lives of servitude in order to ensure the greatness of others.
It posits instead the idea of the "middle path," a life that is neither excessively materialistic nor too ascetic. And some Buddhist thinkers, such as the sixth century Persian-Chinese monk Jizang, even insist that this middle life, this good-enough life, is the birthright of not only all humans, but also all of nature as well.
...The Romantic poets and philosophers extend this vision of good-enoughness to embrace what they would call "the ordinary" or "the everyday." This does not refer to the everyday annoyances or anxieties we experience, but the fact that within what is most ordinary, most basic, and most familiar, we might find a delight unimaginable if we find meaning only in greatness.
...Being good enough is not easy. It takes a tremendous amount of work to smile purely while waiting, exhausted, in a grocery line. Or to be good enough to loved ones to both support them and allow them to experience frustration.
And it remains to be seen if we as a society can establish a good-enough relation to one another, where individuals and nations do not strive for their unique greatness, but rather work together to create the conditions of decency necessary for all.
Achieving this will also require us to develop a good-enough relation to the natural world, one in which we recognize both the abundance and the limitations of the planet we share with infinite other life-forms, each seeking its own path toward good-enoughness.
If we do manage any of these things, it will not be because we have achieved greatness, but because we have recognized that none of them are achievable until greatness itself is forgotten.
I could say more about this subject, but I feel that this blog post is good enough as it is.