Did you see that house?? Wow – check out that car! Designer clothes…limited edition printings…specialized or customized decor…exotic rare flavors, places, experiences… What do you aspire to? More? Much more? Go big or go home! Dream big! Shoot for the moon! More…further…better…
A wow moment on an ordinary day.

A wow moment on an ordinary day.

No wonder I feel so pushed sometimes. It’s a very big world, and there are so many opportunities, so many wonders, and challenges, so many things to try or experience – I guess I’m not surprised that so many folks chase some dragon or another, looking to fulfill themselves, or achieve one goal or outdo some standard or expectation, hit a noteworthy benchmark, impress someone, or climb some mountain, ladder, or heap.
Soap bubbles are also 'real'.

Soap bubbles are also ‘real’.

I know a man with a spectacular home. He bought it for his own reasons, perhaps because his last home wasn’t ‘enough’. He shopped a long while before he found what he was looking for. I still don’t really understand his choice. He bought a mammoth home, worthy of being called ‘an estate’, well off the everyday beaten path, and far out of view of any sight of ‘economic distress’ in a place of exquisitely preserved nominally natural loveliness… it’s huge. Quite large. Well and good, of course, for his substantial family… wait… no, he lives alone, generally. He has just one child (living far away), and no likelihood of grandchildren, not even a dog by his side. Many rooms, much square footage, and more than much else, it boldly states ‘here lives a man who is economically successful’. It’s very fancy. His own tastes, as a man, seem quite simple. He has worked hard and as much as his understanding of the world permits, he is an ethical and good man. He seems mild of temperament, professionally competent, and decent. He tends to be modest and self-effacing when confronted directly, or in conversation, by ‘someone better’ than he sees himself; it is clear that the superiority in question is a matter of financial success. He treats a man with more money as likely to be simply smarter, wiser, more right more often, in a word – better.  If success is measured in dollars, square footage, rarity, or exclusivity, then perhaps a very grand house is an excellent value in communicating that success to the world.
This says something about who we are.

This says something about who we are.

What does that house mean? Oh – not to him, because how that house meets his needs, or what value it has for him, isn’t really relevant to me at all. Not my house. Not my family. Not my measure of success. It’s just an anecdote about a guy with a house.
The basics, walls, windows, a roof, a door.

The basics, walls, windows, a roof, a door.

When I was much younger, in my 20s, I loved shoes, and clothes, and traveling to destinations; most of my disposable income went to those opportunities. I aspired to all sorts of ‘greatness’ and hit the mark once in a while, and struggling and suffering when I didn’t. I pushed myself hard and continuously to ‘succeed’. I defined success based on a number of things that were economic in nature, and certainly each of us is free to define success in our own way… only… I wasn’t doing that, at all. I was defining success as I had been told to define it, based on someone else’s measure of success. (I think we all start there.) Many of us find our own way to re-defining success in our own terms. (I did, eventually.) The discovery that ‘clothes don’t matter’ was an important game-changer for me. I came home from war substantially changed of mind and heart, and on the scale of clothes and shoes it was obvious.  It took a while longer and a house to teach me why ‘clothes don’t matter’, and the nature of sufficiency. I’m still learning.
"Kuwait; Oil Fires" 26" x 48" oil on silk.

“Kuwait; Oil Fires” 26″ x 48″ oil on silk.

Funny thing, though… that house… You see, having a home, a place of my own, somewhere I could always come back to, however far I strayed, somewhere to count on… that has been a measure of success for me, for a very long time.  I get excited about fancy big homes with ‘tons of features’, so much so that I recently allowed myself to be entirely de-railed from a thoughtful, reasoned, careful house-hunting process by the dangled temptation of something bigger, better, fancier… more. More than I need, for sure. I noticed when it happened, but the pure addictive delight of the daydream in front of me was intoxicating, and fully distracting from something far far more important to me – ‘enough’. An important lesson in attending closely to my own needs, my own goals.
It's a trap!

It’s a trap!

Sufficiency. Contentment.

Sure, I suppose a million-dollar home in an exclusive gated community of like-minded individuals surrounded by landscaped scenery, safe behind efficient alarm systems, and deeply invested in society by way of a hefty mortgage would be one way to shout “I am a success!” to the world. Having a big house with plenty of room, and rooms, and features, and space, and customized to suit my taste for color and design would be very aesthetically pleasing, and potentially very comfortable and satisfying. It might satisfy some wants, fulfill some desires, even meet some needs. It would answer a very different question than “What is enough?”

For me, a grand house could not be described as ‘necessary’. It would not be about ‘meeting my needs’, and however often words about needs might be spoken by someone with the money to buy such a grand house, a house like that is not likely to be about needs. A house like that is about wants, and wanting, about craving, acquisition, and fighting discontent with possessions, and communicating status to the world. What need does one human being have for a house of many rooms, many bathrooms, many many square feet, broad expanses of lawn, yard, or acreage, neatly landscaped, arranged, and managed in accordance with the community covenants and homeowner’s association guidelines? I firmly assert again, it is not about needs, or meeting needs, at all.

I know what I need. I need enough. Sufficiency. Safe, secure, sheltered from inclement weather, adequate protection from the unknown intentions of those who might wish me ill, a place where I feel nurtured, at ease, content, and ‘at home’. I need a home, far more than I need a house. I’ve lived in reasonable comfort for months in a tent, in good company, well-provisioned, and feeling both safe and secure. I’m pretty sure ‘my real-estate’ in that circumstance measured something like 20 sq ft. The more-than-dozen of us sharing that tent had about 500 sq ft together. It seemed, at the time, rather generous. Most of the time it felt like ‘enough’. Clearly ‘enough’ isn’t about square footage, stone walls, expanses of lawn, HOA by-laws, elegant roof-lines, granite counters, upgrade appliances, or gated communities. What is ‘enough’? What is ‘home’?

One of the flavors of 'home'.

One of the flavors of ‘home’.

Home. Yeah. Home is high on my list of priorities. Getting there is just starting to peek over the horizon on my vast to-do list of personal growth, and desirable achievements…and I don’t even know yet everything I ‘need’ to measure my success there… other than ‘enough’.  Excess is a burden. Delighting in excess is a fast track to being a shitty human being. lol.
What's your pleasure?

What’s your pleasure?

I probably wouldn’t be a really first-rate minimalist. I’ll be honest about that. I like some luxuries, and my aesthetic preferences result in the possession of the occasional object or two without purpose beyond beauty, but there, too; I call the shots on my idea of success, and only I truly know what meets my needs, and what those needs are, and why. I recognize the possibility that some solitary person with vast wealth might truly ‘need’ a huge grand house of many rooms filled to the rafters with carefully placed exquisite objects that reflect their taste and experiences, reminders of other things and moments, and perhaps such vast wealth truly results in a life so well-lived that the accumulated possessions truly fill such a grand house in a predictable and commonplace way. It’s possible. I have books, paintings, paperweights… having space to display them might seem a necessity from some perspectives, and certainly practical objects like books lose value when they are boxed up, labeled, and put into storage. I would be less satisfied to be without books, and the wee library space I have put together in my current house satisfied my heart when I finished that project. If I had more books, I’d ‘need’ more space. It’s not quite the sort of ‘need’ I’m really on about, though… and the small library I have is just bookshelves along a wall in a mostly unused corner. It meets my needs. It is enough.

I’m spending some time reconsidering my discontent in all manner of things, and the questions I am asking myself are ‘What do I really need?’ and ‘What is enough?’ I have never found contentment – or happiness – in ‘more’, ‘bigger’, ‘better’, or ‘further’. I have found it in sufficiency, in appreciation, in gratitude. I may want ‘more’, I only need ‘enough’.