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The Abundance Within Us and Between Us

I’m struck by how often we act as if what we need is in scarce supply, making life a grim contest to get our share, or more, of scarce resources.

I’m not talking about folks who live with real scarcity when it comes to basic needs like food, shelter, and a living wage. I’m talking about those of us who have enough or more than enough — and still cling to the “scarcity assumption” as if we needed more.

Even more striking is how the scarcity assumption can reach beyond our material needs. We sometimes act as if non-material goods — like attention, care, or love — were in scarce supply. If you get more than your “fair share” then I get less than I “deserve.” Things like these are available in abundance within us and between us, but how easily we forget!

Sadly, the scarcity assumption leads to all kinds of things that kill the spirit: anxiety, resentment, hoarding, overwork, competition, and an inability to enjoying life.

When I find myself drifting in that direction, I return to this poem. If I read it slowly enough — savoring what Wendell Berry celebrates about nature and human nature — I am better able to open my eyes and see the truth in its last line.

The “scarcity assumption” is a self-fulfilling prophecy; the more I live as if it were true, the truer it becomes for me. Abundance comes as I break free of scarcity thinking and remind myself again and again that “What we need is here.”

The Wild Geese
by Wendell Berry

Horseback on Sunday morning,
harvest over, we taste persimmon
and wild grape, sharp sweet
of summer’s end. In time’s maze
over fall fields, we name names
that rest on graves.

(Excerpted from The Selected Poems of Wendell Berry. Read the full poem here.)

I’m posting this Wendell Berry poem because I love it and need the reminder it offers every now and then — and because I want to recommend the great interview Bill Moyers did with Berry:

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