The Lure of Adequacy – by Michael Laskin
I’m one of the few nut jobs who actually watched the winter Olympics in Torino. The dismal TV ratings do not reflect my passion for ice and snow. No….I’m not a figure skating groupie (let’s get that straight – pardon the expression). But, from my comfortable California perch, I do long for the icy nostalgia of my Minnesota youth, and get vicarious thrills from seeing hockey, ski jumping, and the giant slalom.
One of the things that struck me this year is the overblown hype surrounding those personalities that the media and sponsors anoint as this Olympic’s new heroes (before they’ve actually won any medals). It’s always been thus, but it does get “hype-ier” each time around. Every Olympics seems to have a Bode Miller: a guy the media builds up and summarily dumps when he flops miserably and doesn’t live up to unreasonable expectations. Sasha Cohen folded to some extent, but she did get the Silver Medal. Bode? Nothing. Most of these athletes, having gone 0 for 5 as Bode did, hang their head in shame and have compelling reasons why this bad fortune haunted them (a mother in the hospital, a hardscrabble childhood….whatever). Not our Bode. He seems to be totally content with himself, his effort, and offers no mea culpa for his hard-driving carousing lifestyle that just might have had an impact on his performance.
The media, the sponsors, and the public want our heroes to be hitting a “walk-off” home run with the bases loaded in the bottom of the 9th to win the World Series in game 7. Nothing less will do. Heaven forbid if you are a mere mortal.
This leads me to another conclusion. It is human nature to want things. But our insatiability seems to require “new”, “bigger”, “more”, “better”, and “bling-bling.”. We are addicted to abundance in a world that cannot continuously provide that forever. Deep in our hearts we know that some day the party will be over. There will come a day of reckoning in the not too distant future when endless abundance may not be in the cards for our culture. When you go to the supermarket and see hundreds of cereals for sale, the mere anxiety of choice can be overwhelming. Is it possible that the plethora of choices has reached the point of diminishing returns?
So….what ever happened to adequacy? Why must we go from 0 to 60 mph in under 6 seconds? With traffic as it is in most American cities, 0 to 60 in 9 or 10 seconds is perfectly adequate. Why must we haul around tons of metal, rubber, and leather everyday for that one family camping trip we may take once every year or two? We just might want to think about embracing the virtues of adequacy. Might it actually be better to get what you truly need than what you think you want? It will be an enormous and interesting challenge to try and sell that concept to a public weaned on continuous abundance. Everyone knows that laboratory mice live a great deal longer if they are given less to eat than normal mice. We will need to eat less…..but feel satisfied and good about that. The challenge will be to convince us all of the value of this. We may not have a choice. After all, the Chinese and Indians are all going to want their refrigerators, cars, and air conditioners too.