Winter Solstice – How much is enough?

Carol PlumridgeThoughts

Lit candle

Lit candle

Today is the Winter Solstice, the least amount of daylight in the year. Ancient cultures recognised and celebrated the solstice and built monuments to it like Stonehenge, Newgrange  and Matchu Picchu. It is associated with festivals of light, Hannukah, Divali, Christians believe in the light of the world coming at Xmas. The solstice taps into the deep fear within us of scarcity, will there be enough? Will the light return? It is not surprising that the festivals have become associated with excess, usually eating but increasingly spending.

In the west we live in abundance we take for granted fresh running water, toilets, state funded health care and education. But many of us feel we don’t have enough. How much is enough? It’s a tricky concept the Oxford English Dictionary defines enough as as much or as many as is required.

In 2013 according to the World Bank 10.7% of the worlds population live in extreme poverty.

Deprivation has both physical and mental effects, people can go into survival mode when faced with deprivation, which may last long beyond the depravation. They may pursue materialism and never feel they have enough, even when surrounded by plenty.

In today’s society we define ourselves and others by what we own and consume; with both the media and social media we compare ourselves to others and may feel we don’t have enough. We feel compelled to buy status with buying goods, we measure ourselves materially, this massively distorts our idea of what we need to be averagely ok. We need to look to the wider world to see what we have.

  • 50% of humanity lives on less than £1 a day.
  • 852 million people don’t have enough to eat.
  • 1.6 billion people have no electricity.
  • 20% of the population buy 90% of consumer goods. The stressed wealthy!

We need to develop “Enoughism” realise where the tipping point is when enough becomes too much and getting more makes things worse.

* From John Naish’s book Enough Breaking free of a world of excess.

This is not a new idea, many religions believe that human suffering comes from the human experience of desire, how much is enough? Humans are motivated by a deep sense of insufficiency, consumerism tells us that this feeling can be eased by buying some new thing. Consumption drives our society whether we need it or not. It also distracts us from what we really need. How much is enough? We need to have faith that once our basic requirements are met having more than we need will not make us happier. Abundance or deprivation are not healthy states to be in, recognise when you have enough, money, food, whatever.

A regular daily gratitude diary can help mental health and well being and give you the feeling of having enough or help you to start seeing what your needs are rather than your wants. It will also help to quieten that clamour that is constantly telling you that you need more.

These thoughts have been distilled from the radio 4 programme Something Understood broadcast Sunday 17th Dec.