Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Reorientation of Enough

"The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom; for we never know what is enough until we know what is more than enough." - William Blake

Are we wise yet? For the past few weeks my colleagues and i have been thinking about the idea of "enough-ness," and how it relates to the present economy and the future of culture. This idea isn't new, it's been written about by smart people before us but we have, on past projects, found this idea to resonate strongly with certain groups. They talk about "having enough." Enough money, enough space, enough stuff...people just want enough. What does that mean? I asked my dad. He said, "You can never have enough."

You can never have enough. Is that true? It's not neccessarily a bad thing, it just depends on what you're after and what you want more of. It doesn't have to be could be those touchy-feely things like fun or knowledge or love. You can never have enough time. I think a lot of people would agree with that.

But in economic terms, we ARE talking about money though for some reason i dont think people are thinking about their money. That's how we got into this mess. People dont care about their money. if they did, they would have more of it. It would be displayed in frames around their homes. Instead, there are pictures of the people they love--their children, their parents and friends and anybody else they care about. People display travel photos or art they love. People care about relationships with others and the relationship they have with themselves. They don't care about their money. It's not even fun to think about. A means to an end.

So when do people really connect "Enough" to money? Well, i think we saw an entire nation do it recently with the AIG bonuses. The president himself was outraged at the inflated bonus payments given to executives who didn't earn or deserve them. Those executives clearly had enough. It feels easier to judge the enoughness of others. It is ESPECIALLY easy to judge the enoughness of faceless corporations. Companies are big these days, and the bigger the company the less you can trust it. As they grow and diversify their offerings interests become entangled and individuals lose accountability. News stories like the AIG debacle only remind me that as a consumer I must vote with my dollar and each purchase supports a cause. Some causes have way more than enough.

But who has the time, really? I mean, who has the time to make sure each dollar spent is aligned with one's personal values? AND what are our personal values? That's the real question. Here is a suggestion: Since we are all clearly NOT spending much money these days we should, in theory, have some time on our hands. Maybe we should take a month to write down all the things that are important to each of us...then group those words and phrases...and condense them down to a few key personal values. then write them down on a piece of paper the size of a dollar bill and stick that in your wallet. Before you buy something, pull out the paper and just take a second to consider the choice you are making. Ask yourself why do i want to buy this thing, and is there a competitive product/brand that aligns with your values better?

p.s. in reality and for full disclosure, i would probably NEVER actually do this.

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