We live in permissive times. Instant gratification is of the essence for most: in fact, we’re told by voices and images in broadcast and social media that we should only do things that are in our direct interest. So we do enough to get by and just make it. Accompanying this trend is a feeling of breathlessness. We don’t feel in control of our lives. We feel like we are constantly chasing our shadows – trying to run ahead of the great rolling ball made up of all the little busywork that makes up our lives.
The ball is made up of checking our email, taking kids to school, checking Facebook and Twitter, meeting our friends for drinks or coffee, paying the bills, vacuuming the carpet, and so on. The ball is huge and we always feel its rumbling behind us, threatening to catch up to us and squash our lives as it rolls over us, the ball of the busy life. And so we become chasers of “good enough”. We send abrupt, impolite emails and write reports that are only half-baked – like cookies touched by the heat of the hottest oven only long enough to bronze their exterior, whilst inside they’re still gluey with unbaked dough.
Breathless living and “good enough” makes us shallow and brittle. So we seek solutions outside of ourselves: we seek structure from our superiors at work. If we’re taking classes, we seek structure and certainty from the instructor. We seek to be given the key to success: the right credential, the secret knowledge that suddenly lets us step over the threshold of being “educated” or “well-trained”. We seek these things rather than being proactive and building them ourselves, consulting others as resources, or sources of opinion that we will consider and integrate into our own process of learning, growth and building a life, a career, a family. We seek “what’s good for us” from others in relationships – satisfaction, complementarity, validation – rather than building a bond and link with another. Building is a good word – we don’t build things anymore – buy them pre-formed and cheap.
This isn’t good for us. What a liberation when we take the time to really master something, or to build a friendship or life partnership with someone. What a joy to turn our jobs into what the French call métier, that is, craft. Where we seek to improve our skills and build our reputations not through acquisitions and easy wins, but rather through a deepening of our understanding of what others want, what makes them dream, what they find beautiful. Then to take that knowledge and apply it lovingly to the things we do everyday. Doing this raises our sense of personal honour, worth and depth. It makes us more human, really. It makes us more resilient at life’s challenges, and much less willing to compromise ourselves for an easy win. It makes us stubbornly adhere to what we think is Good, and only budge when we’ve really been convinced.
Yes, when we work at crafting a life, career and family, we slow down and seek the Good, rather than just buying something that is good enough.