On Being Good Enough for the World

And counting down 2, 1… summer break. So rarely have I wanted it so badly. Begrudgingly doing the few tasks left, sitting through the few meetings, trying hard not to be negative. There’s a little mantra in my head: Next year will be better, next year will be better.

Please. Let it be better.

16 months of uncertainty and skewed norms. I have learned this about myself: I am a person who likes clear guidelines and rules. I thrive on ticking off the boxes. I am reliant on being able to say I have done something as required – that I am good enough. I have proof.

Before Corona, I had no idea that I saw every day as a kind of multiple-choice test I had to pass. No wonder I was exhausted even before the lockdown. And no wonder the chaos of every day this year has all but shredded my tissue-paper self-esteem.

I think this explains my taking on all kinds of projects. Ballasting myself with boxes I can tick off: at least I can do this today.

It’s not the same thing as being in control. It’s more pathetic than that. It’s nearly the opposite. I can achieve an expectation. And therefore I am useful. Worthy of the oxygen I’m sucking in.

Maybe this year will be enough to make me throw my hands in the air and give up trying. Let go of the concern. I know that is a healthy thing to do. And I doubt it is going to happen. For those of us who were not given the scaffolding we need, we do what we can to scrape together the things that help us get through. Day to day sometimes.

The popular wisdom, the “party line” is that you don’t need to justify your life. But that isn’t how we work. We not only judge ourselves and each other, but we also judge the natural world: what good is a mosquito? A wasp? We concern ourselves with conservation projects often only when we understand how valuable the resources are for our own use. We want our children to see a tiger. From a distance. Maybe in a zoo?

We evaluate. According to our own needs. So, to stop trying to tick off the boxes that make you useful to other people is to pull out of the social network. Only the privilege of strong ties can allow you to do that and survive.

It used to be if your family had a history of suicide, you could forget marriage. No one even pretended that there were other reasons. These things still exist. I’ve heard people talk about how they caution their children not to get involved with someone who has weak family ties. “There’s something wrong there.” We shun.

Despite all the platitudes and pretty memes, people are not compassionate when it comes to unconditional inclusion. Taking on a human as a pet project may look like compassion, but it’s not. It’s useful. It makes us feel good about ourselves. And it keeps people in their place, striving to deserve attention.

Considering what I believe about human nature, I think my interest in deep ecology is linked to these ideas regarding “good enough”, and my obsession with being “useful”. If I can accept that the wasp has a right to live regardless of its usefulness to me – either directly or in terms of its contribution to an ecosystem that I benefit from – I can accept that maybe I don’t need to be useful either. That every day is not another entrance exam to the community.

But it is. Isn’t it`?

The platitudes sound nice, though.

2 Replies to “On Being Good Enough for the World”

  1. Hi Ren, I really like your comments here and it makes me think about the concept of Ubuntu. I first learned about this in my research on Bishop Desmond Tutu and his work. Ubuntu is part of a larger Zulu phrase and basically means, I am because we are. It is directly tied to our shared humanity, but I think it also extends outward to the natural world.
    I also wonder if you have heard about the Healing Centered Education work? It talks a lot about healing being grounded in community and a relational process.
    Wonderful stuff to contemplate as we end another school year and prepare for the next.

    1. I haven’t. I will look more closely at it and see how it might be relevant. Thank you!
      Glancing it seems a lot like our national platform already.

      Norway doesn’t have a colonialist background etc. And there seems to be few if any stigmas regarding the Sami people – their culture and language is integrated into the national curriculum – in fact, they’ve gone so far as to include the Finnskog language in the national curriculum as an appropriate language for teaching. Our new platform addresses sustainability (which of course is not deep ecology), multicultural acceptance, citizenship, critical thinking, etc. Our culture doesn’t have the same kind of deep traumas that many cultures do. 22nd July was bad – but it was handled extremely well. Most of the people hurt in WWII are gone – those fighting over the “truth” are doing so, but it isn’t something that shapes the national character/psyche in any way. And Covid? compared to other countries, this wasn’t traumatizing for many. Few deaths, no economic collapse or homelessness, etc.

      Let’s hope I am not speaking too soon!


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