|Kurt Vonnegut and Joseph Heller|
Provocative words indeed. Tom is writing about how WE (humans) are ‘just a small part of the greater community of life.’ Somehow we have forgotten this, and we do not know how to quit pretending we are not.
Somehow we must have the courage to shout ‘Enough Already!’
The expression Enough Already has its roots in the Yiddish-speaking communities of New York. It is an expression that can usefully be applied to how we live upon the Earth, and how we live with the greater community of life.
Enough and Already
Enough is a compound word deriving from the Old English word ge meaning with or together. It is similar in meaning to the Latin word com.
The second part of the word (nough) originates in Proto-Indo-European words such as nok and nek which connote notions of to reach and to attain.
Putting this together we might define enough as having attained together. Enough suggests arriving at a point of sufficiency where we have attained what it is we sought after.
When we look closely at the word already, we can again discern two parts to it. We know the first part – all. It means everything, completion, fullness, whole, entirety.
The second part, also we know – ready. It denotes done, prepared. Nothing more needs to be executed to make it ready.
Thus, already can be defined as fully done or wholly prepared.
So, what of the full expression – Enough Already!?
It is impossible to obtain any other meaning from this expression than one that says, ‘to reach the point at which we are completed prepared and there is nothing more that needs to be attained.’
What if we were to fully engage with this notion of Enough Already!?
We might then understand, as Lao Tzu did two and a half thousand years ago, that, ‘He who knows that enough is enough will always have enough.’
Someone who had a similar understanding to that of Lao Tzu was the American author Joseph Heller – author of the classic 1961 novel Catch 22.
Heller and Vonnegut
When Joseph Heller died, his good friend and fellow author, Kurt Vonnegut (author of Slaughterhouse-Five,) wrote in his obituary of a party that the two of them attended. The party host was a millionaire. As the two of them talked, Vonnegut opined to his friend that the millionaire made more money in one day than Heller’s book (Catch 22) had since it had been published.
Joseph Heller looked at his friend and said, ‘Yes, but I have something he will never have.’
Vonnegut naturally asked, ‘What is that?’
To which Heller replied, ‘Enough!’
It is a discerning tale.
Enough Needs, More Wants
This concept of attaining enough applies not just personally, but also socially and culturally. Individually we may be able to recognise when we have enough and our needs are fully satisfied. However, we are constantly bombarded by others who want to persuade and coerce us into wanting more and more. That surely, is the credo of the PR/advertising fraternity.
So, our whole social and cultural value system is designed to never be enough already.
And, never being enough means we are constantly, and continually, exploiting and laying waste the Earth. The exploitation of the Earth goes hand-in-hand with our mistreatment of one another and the systematic corruption that enables this to happen.
We may, as Tom Murphy suggests, already be behind.
We should quit.
We could imitate Joseph Heller and recognise that we have enough.
Joseph Heller grew up in the Yiddish-speaking community of Coney Island in New York. Perhaps that is where he picked up the notion of sufficiency.
We too, like the Yiddish-speaking residents of Coney Island, must shout out, Enough Already!Notes:
1. Tom Murphy, Are We Lucky? https://www.resilience.org/stories/2023-10-04/are-we-lucky/ accessed 5 October 2023.