Monday, July 05, 2010

30-Day Trek: Fishy Assumptions

Anthony de Mello, a priest from India, tells this story,

The rich industrialist from the North was horrified to find the Southern fisherman lying leisurely beside his boat.

"Why aren't you fishing?" asked the industrialist.

"Because I have caught enought fish for the day," said the fisherman.

"Why don't you catch some more?"

"What would I do with it?"

"You could earn more money," was the reply. "With that you could fix a motor to your boat, go into deeper waters and catch more fish. Then you would make enough to buy nylon nets. These would bring you more fish and more money. Soon you would have enough money to own two boats...maybe even a fleet of boats. Then you would be a rich man like me."

"What would I do then?"

"Then you could really enjoy life."

"What do you think I am doing right now?"

This fishing story speaks of a profound paradox. We often get so caught up in ways we can make more money so we can get more/buy more/get ahead. In the process, we don't realize we may already have enough. We could have spent more time enjoying life.

Today's Trek poses an important question: Will the amount of things I own continue to grow throughout my life, or will I eventually say, "that's enough"?

It's one of those convicting questions. We know the right answer but it's hard to set a boundary. It's hard to know when enough is enough. It's especially hard in our American culture where very few are ever satisfied with what they have. In fact, sometimes we feel the pressure from friends and family that if we are satisfied we should be apologetic somehow.

I love this quote from G.K. Chesterton: There are two ways to get enough. One is to accumulate more and more. The other is to need less."

Ericlee and I experienced this in a very real way for the three summers we lived in Roanoke, Virginia while I was doing my masters program. We had very little money. We were living with friends or in student housing so our space was limited. We also were traveling by plane all the way from California so we could bring basically our clothes and bare necessities. What we discovered is we didn't really need all the furniture and "stuff" we had back home in our four bedroom/two bath house. Sure, we missed our Kitchenaid and our Vitamix blender. We missed our fat king-sized bed and our bicycles. But we survived. We learned to do without.

Looking back those three summers were packed with memories. We went on excursions through the mountains. We were creative with our food. We lived in community and shared with other students. We had potlucks. We swam in the university pool and participated in free programs at the library. We enjoyed morning runs and evening strolls at sunset. Our list of "needs" was short. Now we look back and long for those summer days and nights when we learned to live simply.

Now as our family looks ahead and prepares to live in Haiti for a year we know we need to take some of these lessons with us. Every time we have gone to Haiti we have seen a glimpses of this "enough principle."

What about you: What are you doing now to enjoy life?

1 comment:

VM Family said...

I love the fish story! It makes me think of how my husband is always clipping Costco coupons for me. "But we use this product!" he'll protest. I reply, "Yes, but I don't want that much of it!"

Often, having too much of something to worry about is harder than not having enough.