…sufficiency? or more than that?…

Do we aspire to sufficiency or to something more than that?  Most people would answer – more than that.  But how did we come to see that as an ideal?

My high school senior quote (back in 1977) was entirely directed at the idea of “more:”

“Ah, that a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for?” 

In this quote, Robert Browning captures the essence of not only “more” but of our spiritual relation to the genuineness of our longing.  Heaven is the place where “more” is realized; it is the home for all our spiritual longings.  And besides, it’s hard to be “in longing” for sufficiency.  Where’s the fun in that?

What most people fail to realize is that the opening question:  “Do we aspire to sufficiency or to something more than that?” is actually a comparison between two ideals: sufficiency and excess.

What might sufficiency look like if it were a spiritual ideal?

  • The inner capacity to be whole and complete without additional or extraneous need.
  • The living embodiment of our right relation with the world.
  • The sustained belief that balance creates its own inner harmony and order.

Sufficiency, as a spiritual ideal, is our ongoing respect for that fragile balance where there is just enough and no more.  There is just enough soil, just enough air and water, just enough energy and no more.  Sufficiency is that state of inner balance and harmony; it is the decision to live within the limits of what we have been given.

And what about our created need for excess?  What about our need to push beyond the bounds of sufficiency?- to “go forth and multiply,” – to view both love and abundance as never-ending expressions of God’s glory?  How do we reconcile these images of fulfillment and aspiration with self-imposed limitation?

“Ah, that a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for?” 

What we fail to realize — in our endless chase for glory and abundance — is that our spiritual longing for expansion has more to do with the people we are than with the things we create. It’s not about our chase for greater-bigger-best; it’s about the expansion of our “being”; its about the fullness of our relation to one another and to what has already been given.

Consider for a moment:

“When we let go of the chase for more and consciously examine and experience the resources we already have, we discover our resources are deeper than we knew or imagined.  In the nourishment of our attention, our assets expand and grow.” — Lynn Twist, The Soul of Money

Endlessly chasing, creating, and spending has a lot in common with hoarding, lusting and grasping.  There is a sense that on either side, these behaviors leave us less than the people we would choose to be.  Both scarcity and excess have a lot to do with the myths which focus our attention on what we unknowingly  create for ourselves.

Scarcity and excess are myths.  They don’t exist.  Not because we don’t have feelings that coordinate with these perceptions, but because they are founded on interpretations of reality which place our attention on possibilities and problems which are entirely at odds with our ever feeling sufficient.

Here are the myths that Lynn Twist writes about:

  • There’s never enough.
  • More is better.
  • That’s just the way it is. 

And all three of these myths are simply untrue.  They only become true when we focus our attention on pre-determined goals.  When we turn our longing and aspiration into a need for security or a need for recognition, and then hold those needs as if there could be no genuine satisfaction or sufficiency.

The expansion we long for is always present.  You lack for nothing, only the eyes to see that satisfaction and sufficiency are already present.

So in summary, it isn’t so much that a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, but rather that in grasping for what is already present, we come to explore heaven as it already exists.  In the nourishment of appreciative attention we discover how the presence of all our gifts can expand and grow.  That’s the expansion that we hunger for most: connection, love, participation, and belonging.

Thanks for listening!


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