Good enough is good enough, and naturally so. After all, this is how nature works—step by step. Surely, this is the sentiment expressed in chapter 64, A thousand mile journey begins below the feet. We now also call this evolution.
Nevertheless, I constantly see people pushing a ‘perfect’ ideal of how something should be or could be. Obviously, I am not innocent in this either. Indeed, no one is immune from this. We all do it to some degree.
What strikes me about this idealism is how this approach to life locks us into a stagnant status quo, suffocating what would otherwise be a natural life flow. Worst still, we are mostly unaware of what is happening because we usually fixate on externals—one agenda or another. We all have blind spots like this to some degree or another.
When is good enough good enough?
The adage, “I don’t know where I’m going until I get there” plays a major role in creativity. However, on the face of it you might not think so. We are used to following some path to get where we want to go. We are largely agenda driven. Creativity arises out of letting go of the agenda and seeing what happens.
“Good enough is good enough” plays a large role here. When you come right down to it, this is how nature works. Evolution proceeds without expectations, agendas, hindsight or foresight. It is the path of failure, which leads to success, which leads to failure, which… you get the idea. Nature is ‘flawed’; in other words, Great accomplishment seems incomplete.
Damming Up the Flow
Naturally, life must flow—naturally. Thus, every so often the dam bursts and our rash actions lead to ominous results, as we catapult ourselves into self-destructive directions to ‘catch up’. As far as I can see, this is a uniquely human all-or-nothing, black-and-white, approach to life. This is the primary reason we have religion and that other animals don’t. We have the greatest difficulty finding the patience that balance requires, whether the Greek’s Golden Mean, Buddha’s middle way, or the Taoist…
Fear of Change, Need for Change
Plainly speaking, we’re unable to settle for a ‘good enough is good enough’ balance in anything that is important to us. It is clear that thinking causes this. Without human imagination we would be unable to rationalize those perfect scenarios where all our ‘ducks were in a row’. Imagined scenarios offer us false answers to the unknowable and give us a false sense of stability. This stability is illusory. Everything will self transform; the only constant is change. Yet we constantly attempt to draw the line, hold the fort, and stubbornly maintain our ideal status quo. Why? Fear of change; we retreat to the pseudo stable world of our imagination.
Liberals, progressives and revolutionaries are truly no different from their ‘conservative’ antagonist. They clamor for change in one direction or another… anything away from ‘what is’. The irony is that the ‘perfect ideal’ they are seeking gives them the hoped for stability of a ‘better’ world. They are just fighting to replace the current status quo with their ‘perfected’ status quo.
A Disease and A Cure
Ironically, the only way to moderate this uniquely, maladaptive human trait… this disease… is through the mind. As chapter 71 points out, Realizing I don’t know is better; not knowing this knowing is disease. Thinking we know causes the disease, realizing through and through that we don’t know offers a cure, of sorts. Only a cure of sorts? Certainly! … ‘good enough is good enough’!
Ideologies are a result of errors in thinking. We regard the reality we imagine as being more credible than what ‘actually is’. We put more stock in the ideal than the real. Why? It gives us what we yearn for, or at least it promises to deliver what we desire. We can easily dream up enough hope to hang on. Indeed, the hanging on is the hope. No wonder it is so hard to let go!
Our imagined outcomes allow us to put all our eggs in one basket—our head basket. The more ‘intelligent’ we are, the more options we can dream up. Certainly, imagination is the reason we’re at the top of the food chain. However, we all know that too much of a good thing has unwanted consequences. That makes it all the more valuable to know when to stop! Knowing to stop [we] can be without danger.
‘Realizing I don’t know‘ is pretty much the first step in turning the corner on this illness. Of course, most everyone realizes they don’t know particular facts, especially those privy to the experts. ‘Realizing you don’t know‘, however, really means drilling into the process of thought itself, and the pseudo reality of the words that form our imaginations. Simply put, the castles of our imagination are comparable to castles built upon a cloud—a word cloud.
Nature’s “good enough” often feels lacking because we can always imagine something better. This characteristic of ours really plays out in religion and politics, as I see it. (Note: Correlations is a very effective tool for confronting one’s imagination, although it turns out to be a tool few use. Perhaps as a tool, it doesn’t offer a sufficiently inspiring solution. 😐 )
Thinking is not Attention
There are discrete differences between thinking, feeling and attentiveness—at least Right Attentiveness. Yet, we habitually confuse these three and look upon them as more or less synonymous. Fortunately we have the animal model to help untangle this.
Obviously, all animals feel: pain, interest, curiosity, loneliness, pleasure, hunger, anxiety, fear, need, and so on. The degree of each feeling depends upon the species, of course. And without question, animals are attentive, especially wild animals. They have no daydreams or cell phones to distract their awareness in the moment. Another clue here is the interesting fact that animals don’t get bored—at least in the wild. The only thing different between humans and other animals is the double-edged-blade of thought. Our cognitive ability is a huge survival benefit; it also makes it possible for us to feel boredom.
Naturally, feeling bored, per se, is not problematic. Boredom is the ‘mustard seed’ to borrow from the Christian Mustard Seed parable. Although here, I suppose it is the ‘anti-mustard seed. The vast emptiness of the human mind hungers to ‘eat’. We feed it with imagination, ideals, and soon become lost in our diet of make-believe reality. If we feel ‘good enough is good enough’, boredom sets in. Obviously, we have a deep need for something to hold in mind or for some goal to reach. An empty, hungry mind needs to feed itself. Interestingly, I can’t help but see this as an emergent property of the basic hunter-gather instinct that drives life to live. The only difference here is that we are feeding our mental life.
Something to Hold, A Goal to Reach
I covered this deep need for something earlier in Buddha’s Work. This is where the similarities between thinking, feeling, and attentiveness come into play. Initially, inklings of the ‘spiritual path’ enter awareness through thought, often in early childhood, as our culture’s paradigm begins to reign in childhood spontaneity. Where it goes from there depends upon what we ‘truly want’ out of life. The curious thing about this is how our short-term desires so easily sabotages our long-term ‘true want’ (1).
Now, if you have read this far into my post, you obviously ‘truly want’ more out of life than fleeting pleasures of the moment. An important thing to ponder is, “If not now, when? ” Anyway, that is my latest motto. The Fourth Noble Truth points the way, particularly when it says …There is salvation for him whose self disappears before truth, whose will is bent on what he ought to do, whose sole desire is the performance of his duty…
The Eight steps on the Middle Path tell me the tools I need to use: Right Comprehension, Right Resolution, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Living, Right Effort, Right Thought, Right State of Peaceful Mind. The most important ones for me (bolded) are those that address the mind directly. It is my thinking that gets me into knots, yet it is only thinking that points me towards the way out. Ironically, constantly realizing I don’t know is only possible through thought, at least initially until I intuitively know it through experience.
The more self-honest I am, the more the light of self-honesty shines on my feeling and thought. When you think about it, the weak link in this chain of events is self-honesty. I’d guess self-honesty must live on the border between thought and emotion—it is much more subtle than the words indicate. Such mystery, and yet how tedious it all sounds when put in writing. Still, it is “good enough”, right? Now, time to go pick weeds.
(1) Think of ‘true wants’ as that which is most natural for your particular nature. This ‘Dharma‘ would be what our original self would express if not sidetracked by the pressing desire to be ‘otherwise’. We can only be who we are, yet we can spend a lifetime yearning to be someone else.