Hell and destruction are never full; so the eyes of man are never satisfied.Proverbs 27:20
Human desire is never satisfied. It is limitless. And it is one of the critical drives for our human evolution. We always aim high. By seeking knowledge, we become smarter. By chasing after prosperity and technological advancement, our life becomes more convenient and comfortable. Our current life is tremendously better than that of premodern days.
Throughout human history, we have defeated many viral, bacterial infections, high infant mortality rate, cruel superstitions, biases, discriminations, and more. The mindset of human rights has pervaded globally. There are many achievements by overcoming our ignorance, violence, and backwardness. By desiring a lot of dreams, we won most of them.
On the other hand, anything extreme is harmful. Once our desire becomes endless, the negative side has emerged. We are greedy and selfish. The more we possess, the more we desire, even exponentially. Our mantra is “more is better.” That is the basis of human evolution, especially modern capitalism.
In the 1970s, while people were about to face the first energy crisis and the emergence of post-colonial globalization, one small book Small is Beautiful gained the attention of many audiences.
In this book, the author, German-born British economist, Ernst Friedrich Schumacher, proposed a model of so-called Buddhism economy as an alternative to modern capitalism.
There are systemic contradictions in our modern capitalism. Our human desire is limitless. The natural resource, on the other hand, especially fossil energy, is limited. Sooner or later, we would face resource deprivation and environmental damage. Our capitalism is inherently unsustainable.
If so, how can we make our society sustainable?
One answer could be technological innovations. And another could be what is called Buddhism economy model. What is this model?
- Firstly, we have to practice mindful consumption. Noticing our ego is inherently greedy; we need to set ourselves on the right path.
- Second, we have to be aware that everything and everyone is interconnected. The mass production and mass consumption would destroy our environment and ecosystem.
- Third, the middle way is the key. We can no longer go back to the premodern primitive lifestyle. And as above-mentioned, there are a lot of positive benefits to our advanced modern life. Either way, anything extreme is harmful.
We can summarize them as one phrase. In Chinese characters, it is written as 知足. It means “knowing contentment.”
This idea is originally from the words of Lao Tzu.
知足者富Lao Tzu (老子)
I like the following English translation.
He who knows that enough is enough will always have enough.Lao Tzu
It also reminds me of the following lines of the Serenity Prayer.
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,Serenity Prayer
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.
In the same manner, therefore, we should pray:
God, grant me the wisdom to know when enough is enough.
Image by ejaugsburg