Enough

A Theological Phrasebook entry.

Kurt Vonnegut tells a story in his poem, “Joe Heller” (you can find it in various corners of the internet, but it was originally published in the New Yorker, as far as I can tell). You probably know how it goes: Vonnegut and Heller are at a party thrown by some billionaire and Vonnegut asks Heller how he feels about the fact that this guy makes more money in a day than Heller will make in a lifetime. Heller says, well, I have something he’ll never have, and Vonnegut asks what’s that, and Heller responds that he has “knowledge that I’ve got enough” (Vonnegut’s closing line: “Not bad! Rest in peace!”).

It’s a good story, as far as it goes. It is better to have some sense of what might be enough than to have no idea at all. Judging your self-worth by the size of your bank balance is unwise etc. But, the story has always sort of annoyed me. Partly because when I encounter it in the wild the people delivering it do so with a self-satisfied smirk. Take that billionaire! Go home and cry into your sacks of cash in lonely isolation! But, it’s more than the implicit smugness. It just doesn’t quite seem true. At least not to me, with my own hunger for more. I think, for most of us, most of the time, “enough” is preceded by “never” (Never! Never!). Maybe it isn’t a hunger for money that we are trying to satisfy, but there’s always something we’re chasing that we can never quite catch. A human animal is one marked by a “never enoughness.”

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There is no spoon long enough

What I think I’m doing here: This is a “he who has ears, let him hear” sort of thing.

I’ve been thinking of the proverbial saying “He who sups with the devil should have a long spoon” (apropos of nothing, of course). I think my initial interpretation was primarily the idea of protecting your reputation – not wanting to be seen associating with a gentleman of disreputable character, trying to make sure you don’t get the smell of sulfur on your frock coat (this is a very 19th century dinner scene I’m imagining). But, after reflecting on it some more, I don’t think that’s right at all. The reason you need a long spoon is because if you get too close to the cooking pot the devil will tip you over into it and devour you. You don’t need to worry about your reputation, you need to worry about being consumed (cf. 1 Peter 5:8). And so, really the insight of the proverb is: don’t dine with the devil, the potential cost of the meal is too high to pay.

Matisyahu’s “Happy Hanukkah,” the book of Proverbs, and Me

What I think I’m doing here: Another Song Notes post. The first one, which provides a little bit of explanation, is here (the tag provides other examples).

In December of 2012 I listened to this song approximately 87 times. Some of you are backing away slowly, trying to avoid eye contact, and others are nodding sagely as you remember strange song binges from your own past.

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