Joe Heller – by Kurt Vonnegut
True story, Word of Honor:
Joseph Heller, an important and funny writer
and I were at a party given by a billionaire
on Shelter Island.
I said, “Joe, how does it make you feel
to know that our host only yesterday
may have made more money
than your novel ‘Catch-22’
has earned in its entire history?”
And Joe said, “I’ve got something he can never have.”
And I said, “What on earth could that be, Joe?”
And Joe said, “The knowledge that I’ve got enough.”
Not bad! Rest in peace!”
There is a buffet restaurant down in Denver called Cinzettis. Each dish has several chefs that watch over it, so every dish tastes as though you ordered it off a menu. It’s good food with lots of selection. The first time I went there, I ate too much and regretted it — sick to my stomach for the entire evening. This is a lesson that eating teaches you, we go from hungry to satisfied to too full.
Many desires we have in life teach us not to overdo it. We can be parched, drink some water and feel satisfied. If we keep drinking water, we feel sick. Even television can be relaxing for a bit, but too much and we feel bad (though unfortunately we don’t always attribute that to watching TV). Even drugs or alcohol have their negative after effects with indulgence.
Unfortunately, many desires don’t have a quick feedback cycle when we over-indulge. For example, the quest for money has the opposite feedback loop. The more people quest for it, the more it consumes them and it’s all they can think about. Never sated, the more they have, the more they want. In the process, it crowds out other desires that would be more fulfilling if satisfied. The poem above reminded me of this proverb:
There is one alone, without companion: He has neither son nor brother. Yet there is no end to all his labors, Nor is his eye satisfied with riches. But he never asks,“ For whom do I toil and deprive myself of good?” This also is vanity and a grave misfortune. – Ecclesiastes 4:8 (NKJV)
Consider our daily pursuits. For what purpose are we striving and when will we know we have enough. For those things that we desire, consider what overindulgence looks like and beware if there is no obvious sign that we’ve gone to far.
Knowing what is enough is a worthy investigation. It does change from time to time, but especially with money, it’s made a huge difference in my life. “Good enough” is another awesome concept. I try to relegate most of what I try to learn to good enough so I can get on with the other things that matter most.
Is there a sin concept of perfectionism? Is it a form of vanity?