"KNOWING HOW MUCH IS ENOUGH"

IF I REMEMBER RIGHTLY, WHEN  HUGH SIDEY (who penned The Presidency column for Life magazine) asked Mrs Ladybird Johnson on how she felt while leaving the White House at the end of President Johnson’s term, she quipped  a la Cinderella, ” Well, coaches turn into cabbages…”  Now that I have quit my job voluntarily, I have been preoccupied making a list of things that I can do without, things that are good to have but not entirely essential, et al. Curiously enough, when I flipped through the pages of my notebook (actually you could call it a scrapbook where I jot down all things that interest me), I stopped at the entry which read “Hedonic Adaptation”.  There was only a brief explanatory note to the two words in question :  a phenomenon in which you quickly get used to better circumstances !

IMPROVING ONE’S STATION IN LIFE is probably the prime driver why we all work, taking the issue beyond survival, of course.  We would also need in this context to draw a line somewhere about our acquisitive tendencies lest we are driven to the edge of pointlessness.  I have begun to realize that this question is often ducked unless one is actually forced to face the issue – retirement, resignation or loss of one’s job are probably the catalysts that drive one to introspection on this issue.  It is also a critical facet of hedonic adaptation  that yesterday’s luxuries are considered today’s essentials.  Nearly fourteen years ago, I remember eyeing with envy a senior colleague’s Motorola mobile and today when I transit from the corporate Blackberry to acquire a cellphone myself I found it hard to resist owning anything else other than the iPhone.  The fundamental question whether a cellphone is an essential accessory appeared irrelevant – several billions in this planet own one and so “it must be indispensable”.  We also need to ask ourselves whether we genuinely need something or we have to necessarily ” keep up with the Joneses.”

AS IS THE CASE WITH MY iPHONE, it would be difficult for me to contemplate a future without the Kindle or the iPad as I use the former to read and buy the books that I need (I don’t have enough space to stock books physically is yet another justification!) and I need the latter to read all the magazines that I subscribe to.  This takes me further.  If I have to prune my subscription list for magazines, do I give up The F@st Company or Wired  or both ? Do we sell the other car or do we need a car at all ?  The dilemmas continue…

PAUL SMITH, THE COLUMNIST  of Wealth Matters in The  New York Times touches upon this subject in an enormously interesting piece titled Having Enough, but Hungry for More.  He asks us to be sure what we say we want matches up with what we actually want. Thinking about Rajat Gupta who was worth USD 100 mn at the time he revealed inside information to Rajaratnam of the Galleon Hedge Fund  he wonders how many people continue their quest for more without thinking why they are doing it.. He engages us in a discussion with authors of  two key books – one written  by the John Bogle, founder of Vanguard Mutual Funds (the 2nd largest in the world after Fidelity) and the other authored by Keynes’ biographer Robert Skidelsky. The  first book is titled  Enough: True Measures of Money, Business and Life and the other is How Much is Enough ? The Love of Money, and the Case for the Good Life.  For Bogle, his “sense of enough came from not wanting very many things in life.” Skidelsky’s analysis is that “persuading people that they have enough when their neighbor has more is an age old problem that is tough to solve.’  “If you live in a society where success is measured mainly in money, that means you want more money.” 

MY WIFE AND I WILL SOON BE “WEEDING OUT” OUR  WARDROBES.  I am tickled by what the poet Auden once said:  one actually needs only two pairs of clothes – one to get into and the other to get out of ! I wonder what other challenges I will soon confront in knowing actually, how much is enough……
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