At a party given by a billionaire on Shelter Island, Kurt Vonnegut informs his pal, Joseph Heller, that their host, a hedge fund manager, had made more money in a single day than Heller had earned from his wildly popular novel Catch-22 over its whole history.
Heller responds,“Yes, but I have something he will never have — ENOUGH.”
Based on this anecdote, Kurt Vonnegut wrote this obituary/poem for The New Yorker in May of 2005 .
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!”
— Kurt Vonnegut
Enough — What an eloquent word.
Enough — What a potent word.
Enough — An underused word, maybe.
I remembered a car sticker I had seen on Pinterest — “Whoever dies with the most toys, wins?”
For me, the message in the car sticker and Joe’s obituary is that I am trapped in a life-long infinite contest where I can never get enough money, things, properties, attention, appreciation, blessings, awards, recognition, and toys. I will just not be satisfied. For, I do not understand the word — Enough.
Commercial advertisements make me believe, I haven’t arrived in life if I haven’t got the latest gadget or the newest car or haven’t been to the swankiest holiday and that I should have more goodies than everyone else.
The poetry made me recognize, I have been given so much in my own life. There are many areas in my life where I should be Joseph Heller and say, “I have enough.”
Here is a small list that I made…
- Family — Enough
- Well wishers — Enough
- Love — Enough
- Home — Enough
- Work place — Enough
- Wife — Enough (ha ha)
- Children- Enough
- Memories — Enough
- Blessings — Enough
- Recognition — Enough
- Opportunities — Enough
- Mentors — Enough
- Financial Independence — Enough (self)
- Financial independence — 50% enough (family)
My my…in the making of the list I realized I have abundance of ‘enough’.
Till I read the poem, there seemed to be no limit on what ‘enough’ means. I believed, if one says, “I have enough”, he may be branded as a citizen of ‘comfort zone’ or ‘he lacks ambition’ or ‘he is an underachiever’ and so on.
I now remember what P. P. Gyanjivandasji Swami of Swaminarayan Sampradaya had told me — “Spiritual aspirants do not bow down at the altar of the transitory. Whoever experiences the eternal, succeeds in life.”
That message, and Joseph Heller’s ‘enough’ is the bridge between the materialistic and spiritual world, I guess.
What are your thoughts on ‘enough’? Do you agree with Joseph Heller? Are there areas in life where you have ‘enough’? If this article makes sense to you, please do share it with ‘enough’ people.
With love, prayers and exceptional wishes,