Tuesday, September 20, 2011

You are already good enough ...

As I sit down to start writing, I already know this could go in countless directions. What I am intending to say is something like this. "We are all trying so hard to be good enough, for ourselves or for others, and are constantly bombarded with messages about how to be better and more. But right now, you are all you ever need to be and are already perfect. This sounds like an empty platitude but it is infinitely true."

I jotted a note to myself a few days ago that said "I am pretty good at so many things, but have not figured out what I want to be truly great at ...". At the time, I think it was meant as a call to arms to get cracking on figuring out what that latter thing is. In a recent business bestseller, Jim Collins stated, "Good is the enemy of great". His assertion is that when we settle for good, we won't demand great. And I often find myself sympathetic to this viewpoint. Voltaire had already asserted the corollary 235 years earlier, "The better is the enemy of the good". It is commonly understood that he was advising us to not overlook the good, always in search of the better.

As much as I am a happy guy, I have also spent a lot of time taking much for granted, and even beating myself up. My wonderful erstwhile-wife often pointed this out to me - that I should enjoy my successes a bit more, instead of deciding that if I had already accomplished something it couldn't be that great and press on in search of more, more, more. Granted, that is likely my hard-wiring, and in many ways I would never want to change it. But, I had a moment of satori in a mindfulness meditation program I was taking a few years ago when we were asked to identify a word that limited us in our lives. Most people came up with words like "stupid", "lazy", "weak". The one that leaped to my mind was "exceptional" - and I knew immediately what I meant ... that nothing was good enough that wasn't exceptional. Even being exceptional at ordinary things didn't cut it, nor pretty good at exceptional things. Only being truly exceptional at truly exceptional things would "make me satisfied". Note the previously mentioned trap - if I could do it, that automatically ruled out its exceptionality to me.

And don't even get me started on "other people"! I preach acceptance and love, but have always struggled with impulsive judgement and dismissal. It actually drives me a bit crazy about myself. I know it is not just me doing this, but it is my voice in my head that I have to listen to. "Look at that idiot." "That poor unenlightened soul." "How can he/she possibly be happy living like that?" At least now I catch myself as soon as the thoughts come up, and don't give them any power, but they are still there.

I often tell the story of a conversation I had at a music festival a few years ago. I saw people lined up to pay $30+ for temporary tattoos and, for some reason took umbrage with that. "I don't get why the fuck any adult would get a temporary tattoo for a music festival", I opined to my friend. His reply was not intended to be particularly philosophical, but it led to a weekend long reflection for me: "I don't see why there is anything for you to get." Of course! Why was it up to me to judge anyone? How would the world be better if everyone were the same, much less the same as me? Why was I lowering my energy about what others were doing, and then sending that shitty energy out into the world? Their choices are every bit as valid as mine, and I'm sure there are lots of things for which others feel justified in critiquing me.

Where does all of this condemnation and "better than" and negativity come from? Well, our basic societal institutions are drenched in these themes. The predominant Western religion makes it clear that we are "born of sin" and must live a careful life conforming to someone else's rules until we die, at which point we will face "judgement" determining whether we are allowed into paradise or cast into a fiery eternity of suffering. Our entire "growth based economy" is a pyramid scheme that can only work if people buy more and more and more. To ensure this, everyone must be dissatisfied, unhappy, even afraid - and respond by spending money they don't have on things they don't need. Marilyn Manson expressed this well in this clip from his interview with Michael Moore in "Bowling For Columbine". And our "winner take all" party-politics system has become the ultimate zero-sum game with winners and losers and vicious tactics intended to convince voters that "we are right and they are wrong" (I am particularly familiar with this dynamic, as my short time as a "candidate" brought some of my basest tendencies to the surface and actually upset me significantly).

I was raised in a wonderful family and given every conceivable advantage. My parents worked hard to instill "good", solid values in their children - which were, naturally, couched in lots of good vs bad and right vs wrong. I attended "good" schools where we were taught the "right" way to think and to do things, so that we could someday have "good" jobs and have a "good" life.

Life has, in many ways, become an unending competition. We must compete, as individuals and as countries, for jobs. According to the 60" propaganda machine on your wall, "reality" means outwitting and outplaying your opponent. Every face needs making over and every ride needs pimping. Nothing can ever be good enough. Think you are doing ok? Well, then you'd better tune in and see these cribs! More more more.

Where is this getting us? I honestly believe that it is causing us to miss most of the beauty in life. "We" have more than ever, and are less happy. Most of us have so much more than we truly need, but so much less than we have learned to want - and it is the latter that we notice.

Yes we have problems. We are polluting and harming our planet. Governments are going broke. People are getting depressed and frustrated. But, despite what the talking heads try to convince us of, the solution is not to work harder and spend more to keep the system working. Logically, this can only make things "worse".

Instead, slow down, breathe deeply and look around at the beauty that is already everywhere. Consume less. Smile more. Help someone. Whenever you are feeling lack, try giving something away. Let go of the need to have all of the answers and understand that we don't even know what the questions are :)

Whether you subscribe to science's Big Bang Theory or The Bible's Book of Genesis or any other faith system,  the entire Universe was created at the beginning of time. Before that, there was nothing to speak of. Then, rather suddenly, everything was here. Whichever story you choose to believe, that core fact remains: there was nothing, and then from that nothing there is now everything. And it is either all God or it is all matter, or it is all energy : and in any of these cases we are all A PART of that, not APART from it. We are not all just IN this together. We ARE this together.

Bringing that back to the practical, what does it mean? To me it takes the pressure off! None of the "noise" that makes up what we have come to see life being about actually matters. I can choose to make it matter, as most of us so often do, but the world was here before I was born and will be long after I die - and I am not responsible for that. There is nothing that the world, or God, or The Universe needs from me. I get to decide what I want my life to be and, whatever that ends up being is absolutely fine. Because, no matter what, I am PART of the whole thing. And a part that no one or nothing else can possibly be. And you are just as integral a part. And so is everyone and everything else.

So, in light of all of that, I am going to let go of the universal steering wheel and know that nothing needs to happen for me to be good enough, and that everything that happens to/with/for/from/by me has value. I am still free to strive for anything that I want, and to create games called "important" and "improvement" and "success"- and can do so boldly and bravely knowing that everything is perfect no matter what.

And, most "importantly", I am going to look upon everything and everyone else as perfect as well, and as beautiful, and as intrinsically related.

I love life. I love myself. I love you.



  1. And...
    Kudos on your musical selections ...JBT/JJ/JM ...nice work JD :)

  2. Two thoughts: (1) Buddhist economics = want what you have and (2) "I don't see why there is anything for (me) to get".. I LOVE this. Completely shuts down the judging-in-my-head voice. Very powerful post John -- loved it! Thank you, you perfectly good enough guy you...

  3. AMEN.
    (Side note: I saw Jason Mraz on LA INK get a tattoo (permanent...lol). His buddies/band mates also got one. They all incorporated 'be love' (I believe) into them.)

  4. Reading this line made me so sad: "The predominant Western religion makes it clear that we are "born of sin" and must live a careful life conforming to someone else's rules until we die, at which point we will face "judgement" determining whether we are allowed into paradise or cast into a fiery eternity of suffering." This is really NOT the basis of Christianity, although many are misled and believe this to be true. In the old testament, it is true that you had to follow hundreds and hundreds of rules and laws, and if you sinned you had to perform sacrifices in order to "cleanse" yourself. But after Jesus cleansed us all with his blood once and for all, all you have to do is BELIEVE in what he did for us and ask him into you heart. That's it. That's your ticket to Heaven. No rules to live by the rest of your life, no judgement once you die. Its already done. That's all, just wanted to say my peace :)

  5. Thank you everyone. And thanks, particularly, to Carolyn for sharing your faith very respectfully. I honour your position on that matter, and perhaps I should not have painted all of Christianity with the same brush.

  6. Awesome as usual. So thought provoking. I love how you say what so many of us think and don't say. Ok...I say it too...but I'm not sure my children listen!!! hahaha....although I have had a recent conversation with my oldest that has brought me some faith that maybe, just maybe she gets that there are more important things in the world...than "things" We'll see how that progresses.

    Thanks John!