What is “enough”? Is there ever “enough”? Can there be? I’ve been thinking about this word and these questions quite a bit lately and it seems to me, when applied to most (if not all) situations, the answers, respectively, are “nothing” and “no.” There appears to be, deep within the human psyche, a constant unsettled dissatisfaction with anything that feels too static. We always want more. To own more. To know more. To do more. To achieve more. To be more. In some ways this refusal to consider anything “enough” is one of humanity’s shining traits. Our creative impulse thrives within this internal commitment to go and think beyond what currently exists, what is currently thought to be possible or impossible. But this refusal to be satisfied is also one of our greatest flaws. It has led us to be complacent, to ignore, and at times even justify the systematic oppression of other people in the pursuit of “more” or “progress.” It has led us to the numerous humanitarian and environmental crises we face today, to the brink of collapse. And now we are forced to ask for our very survival, “what will be enough?”
This is not a question I’ve been able to develop a solid answer to, but it’s one that sits with me daily. At my low points, I feel like nothing will ever be enough. That we have reached such a level of dysfunction and have become so far removed from the consequences of our daily actions, there is no way to avoid a period of strife and destruction. But my spirits are lifted when I remember the millions of people who refuse to be intimidated by “enough” and live their lives wholeheartedly in pursuit of doing whatever is necessary to enact the kind of transformations needed to create a vibrant, equitable, interconnected, and deeply relational global atmosphere. And I’m reminded that my own work lives in this same vein.
As much hope as these incredible efforts by people around the world bring me (and I really do believe hope lies in the actions of those who strive to make the world a better place, no matter how daunting the situation may be or how inevitable a certain outcome may appear), it brings to the forefront a struggle I and many of my friends who work in any social- or service-oriented field frequently face and must be named: self-judgement for not, in our eyes, doing enough. With the crises we face looming so large, our internal drive to provide healing and deconstruct systems perpetuating cycles of trauma, oppression, and destruction (on emotional and physical levels) goes into overload. We begin to feel guilty for missing events, for our incapacity to pour 100% of our care and outrage to every injustice that appears before our eyes each day, for taking moments to enjoy doing something frivolous, which often includes walking in the shoes of our privilege. When there are thousands of people suffering more than we are, how can anything we do ever be enough?
There are hundreds if not thousands of movements and issues that deserve my full support and dedication and there are parts of me that lament the limitations of the human body and emotional capacity with feelings of moral failure. But I also know spreading myself to thin makes me useless to everyone. Given the billions of people on the planet, I’m led to wonder whether if each of us pursuing the nebulous “what is enough?” in the few areas we are most passionate about (and making sure this pursuit is intersectoral and intersectional in nature), is sufficient to answer the question on a global and existential scale. I wonder too how to identify and create concrete “enoughs” that allow us room for self-care without being burdened by guilt for doing so. How do we grapple with the impossibility of supporting every cause equally? What are ways to show our support and solidarity around issues which lie more towards the periphery of our consciousness or emotional capacity?
I am still trying to find the answers to every question I’ve asked. I haven’t, as of yet, been able to avoid becoming overwhelmed on a regular basis. Perhaps one piece of the answer involves the beautiful thing called human connection. We may not be able to help every person directly, but we can certainly encourage self-care and empower the people we know doing work in the areas we may not be (in addition to the colleagues in our own field). And we can try to make meaningful connections wherever we go. Humans are at their best when they feel loved and their presence in the world matters; when they feel enough the way they are. In this state, we’re more generous, creative, and accepting, and have a strong desire to elicit these feelings in others. We can also tread lightly on the earth and extract ourselves as much as possible from systems that are built on the oppression of others (thinking about where the things you buy ultimately come from for example). This of course is neither an easy nor simply task, which again highlights the importance of a network of supportive relationships.
So what is enough? It is a question we must work together to solve. Therefore, I invite you to join me in grappling with this and the many other questions in this piece. Amazing things will emerge if we bring our minds and unique wisdom and experiences together.
Religica is in the process of creating a space for people to gather and explore their deep wonderings about the world. The hope is that providing a space to ask hard questions and grapple with them as a community will push us to expand our thinking, enliven our creativity, and set alight relationships and collaborations around the issues we ask “what is enough?” most passionately. Stay tuned in the coming weeks for updates.
Megan Anderson received an M.A. in interdisciplinary studies with a concentration in religion, society, and social change from Claremont School of Theology. She is interested in the intersection of religion, social factors, justice, and the environment, and how these intersections impact efforts to promote sustainable behavior and the creation of an ecological civilization. Currently she is working as Blog Editor for Religica, Executive Assistant at CHERP Locally Grown Power, an organization working to provide solar for free to low- and middle-income households, Global Networks Coordinator for Institute for Ecological civilization (EcoCiv), which works internationally to support systemic approaches to long-term sustainability by developing collaborations among government, business, and religious leaders and among scholars, activists, and policy makers. Previously she worked as Webmaster and Associate Editor for The Interfaith Observer (TIO) and as Program Manager for the Parliament of the World’s religions and a member of the group developing programming for the POWR’s Justice Track.