This is enough

Jeff and Matt walk the Public Garden of Boston, Adams’ home town. September 2007

“The longer I live, the more I read, the more patiently I think, and the more anxiously I inquire, the less I seem to know…Do justly. Love mercy. Walk humbly. This is enough.”
John Adams

I can certainly identify with Adams’ observation about reading, thinking and anxious inquiry. In fact, I’ve noticed that my tendency to overthink everything is fairly common in today’s world.
I once believed that it was important to discuss ideas and share one’s personal beliefs and emotions, but I have come to doubt the practice. It seems to me that most everybody is talking and hardly anyone is listening. Talk seems to go in circles and accomplish nothing, or worse than nothing.

That reflection is hardly original, and I’m not the only one coming to that conclusion. In fact, thousands of years ago, the book of Proverbs stated: “When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable, but he who restrains his lips is wise” (Proverbs 10:19, NASB).
I guess some things never change.

Adams’ quote ends with a reference to another Bible verse that has long been a favorite of mine, Micah 6:8. This verse was read at Jeff’s graveside during his funeral. It’s a fitting description of how he lived his life, and a worthy standard to which I aspire.

Since I lately spend most of my hours in solitude, it may be convenient for me to decide that talking is not all it’s cracked up to be. But I do know that communication is not lacking in our world. I wish I could say the same for the virtues Adams mentions. Justice? It seems increasingly confused with “vengeance.” Mercy? It appears to be mostly outsourced to impersonal charities and government agencies. Humility? Definitely not a modern virtue.

So I find Adams’ words at once reassuring and challenging. I’m happy to be reminded I’m not the only one who “knows” far less than I did in my youth. One thing I have learned, however, is that a lifetime will not be enough to achieve the straightforward command to “do justly, love mercy, walk humbly with your God.” Not easy, but simple. And enough.

20 Comments

  1. Chris

    Hi Julia,
    I love Micah 6:8 also. Justice, mercy and humility are bedrocks to fruitful living. And I agree, not as easy to walk the path as I’d like. Worthy aspirations anyway. When you do find a humble person, you usually find one who has gained understanding – that the more you know, you realize the less you know.
    Thanks for being the good person you are! Have a wonderful week!

    • Thank you Chris. I think humility is tough for everyone these days. If various feature stories in the news are to be believed, we are growing more and more isolated from each other, and I think that works against humility (and also against mercy and justice, come to think of it). Being with other people is almost always a humbling experience for me, because I am able to see up close how gracefully they are handling so many challenges. It keeps me from over-focusing on my own little world. Thanks for being here with us.

  2. Harry Sims

    “Humility? Definitely not a modern virtue.”

    …… Except in Alcoholics Anonymous and other devoted spiritual movements where it is the crowning virtue.

    Here! — Here! — Here!

    Harry

    • Perhaps humility is the single greatest tool in the 12-step toolbox. I cannot think of any area of life– business, personal relationships, church and community groups– where humility would not improve circumstances.

  3. Good morning, Julia!
    Yes, common practice today seems to be to listen just long enough to trigger something to say, too “contribute to” (or over run) a conversation. Several times lately, I’ve thought, “hmm, I never told so-and-so such-and-such …” and then I realize that so-and-so derailed me before I got to explain where my point was going, and off we went, in another direction.
    So, I’m thinking you’re right; there’s not enough genuine listening going on, and a lot of people seem starved for attention.
    I could go on …. Ha!
    Blessings on your day!
    (I’m also a fan of Micah 6:8 “He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?”)

    • Susan, I plead guilty to being “so and so!” 😀 If I stopped to think about it, I probably could come up with some actual things we have talked about that got sidetracked due to my lifelong habit of chasing rabbits. Perhaps that is why I like written communication (whether digital or old-fashioned postal mail). It allows each party to consider what is said, revise if necessary, and communicate fully without interruption. Then the message can be read, and re-read if necessary, with full comprehension. Those of us who are overly chatty in conversation might be told that the other person’s interruption is necessary to get a word in edgewise, which is a valid poitn. But I see interruption happening everywhere, in conversations where I’m not an active participant as well as the ones where I’m one of the guilty parties. Even when calling a customer service number to inquire about a situation or explain a problem, I am usually interrupted before finishing the first sentence. Often, the agent will assume they know what I’m going to say, but the assumptions are not always accurate. It’s probably a function of impatience as much as of distraction, but the two together are a formidable mix indeed. BTW, please do go on! I love reading. 😀 Hope you are enjoying some lovely fall weather. Does all this rain mean we are in for fabulous foliage?

      • Hi Julia!
        Rain … foliage … not so good, here.
        Lots of interesting mushrooms in my yard, though!
        You’ll be interested to know that I was actually thinking mainly of two other people, when I described interrupters! Your interruptions are often to clarify understanding of the topic at hand, AKA “active listening.” 😀
        I certainly hear you about “customer service,” at least in some cases. Case in point: cellular phone stores. It does not matter what question you ask, the answer is invariably to “buy a newer model phone!” (…”where did my app go?” … “how do I set this to silence notifications?” … “I just need a replacement battery; my phone works fine ….”)
        Ok, time to get off the soap-box and move toward work today!
        Have a blessed day!

        • Susan, thanks for your generous interpretation of my compulsive rabbit-chasing. 😀 As for the story about the cellular phone store, it brought a big grin. Yes, the answer to everything these days seems to be “get a new one” whether that be consumer goods, jobs, homes, relationships…one of my biggest challenges has been learning that SOME things (e.g. linens, dishes, rugs, etc.) were NOT meant to last forever. Jeff and I shared a contentment with, even attachment to, the old and shabby, tried and true possessions. I guess it was a good thing that the military uprooted us every 3-4 years and forced us to get rid of stuff. I’m dealing now with the accumulation of being 14 years in the same home, and it’s a lot to get through. So there is a place for replacement. BUT I still think too much nowadays is needlessly trashed, even if we had infinite landfill space. Having a proclivity to dispose of everything seems risky to me. I guess that’s the “old lady” in me showing! I’ve always had an old lady in me, but now that I’m actually an old lady, it’s in overdrive!!! 😀

        • P.S. Lots of interesting (euphemism for “gross”) mushrooms in my yard, too…are fungi taking over the planet?

  4. “do justly, love mercy, walk humbly with your God.” Therein lies our peace.
    What’s wrong with our country is that we have turned away from [tradition]. When we do we find two things to be true: 1) We don’t have new problems. Only those of the past that we give new names to. 2) On the road toward progress the best of who we are is often left behind.
    -Alan

    • Alan, I agree on all counts. “Nothing new under the sun.” If only we could keep the good and move forward without the bad. I guess human nature will always prevent that.

  5. Sheila

    Good Sunday morning, Julia. ☕️ So, we’re on a beautiful October verandah, salty breezes and yellow marsh grasses. I’ve mentioned, during the Fall seasons that we’ve shared, that is the change we notice here along the coast. But the heat we’re still experiencing doesn’t seem fitting for what should be “sweater weather”. Thinking of your post, I compared it to some olive shells that I picked up yesterday on my beach combing stroll. Although the beautiful shells were polished so smoothly on the outer surface, the tiny closure had picked up grains of sand and broken shell debris, almost like wisdom tucked inside! 🌊🐚💛 There is much wisdom in the comments here, as well. So happy to share my thoughts here, with you, this morning. Love, Sheila 💔🐥😢💛

    • Sheila, it’s lovely to have you here with us this unseasonably warm day. Soon enough we will be trying to remember what “warm” felt like! Yes, all the sand and debris will hopefully polish away the dross hidden inside, leaving the sort of patina that so many experts value. Meanwhile, we sit and ponder, aloud or silently, while the kettle stands ready to offer the comforting cup. ☕️💔🐥😢 And the pounding surf lulls us into something resembling calm. Thanks for being here and bringing the magic of the seaside with you!

  6. Steve

    Julia, your words are timely and not lost on any century. They bring to mind words from our Lord , Matthew 7:6 – “Don’t waste what is holy on people who are unholy. Don’t throw your pearls to pigs! They will trample the pearls, then turn and attack you.” (NLT)
    Weighing your words to the audience before you is the wisdom you have come to express in this wonderful sharing of words above. Your pearls are not lost on the heartbroken, the hopeful, those that are looking for brighter days of substance for their lives.
    With a small amount of license I believe this fits as well…”he who has ears, let him hear!” No, I am not naive enough to think that only scripture comes forth from your mouth but, the thoughts that you have put down today have a righteousness worthy of anyone who can read or “hear” them. Have a wonderful Fall day!

    • Steve, thank you so much for these generous and kind words, and for your thoughtful observations. I’m so happy you are here!

  7. Mike

    heading out to Savannah next week. Any suggestions?

    • Mike, believe it or not, I have never been to Savannah, not even one time. So you can give me the suggestions when you get back. 😀

      • Mike, though dismissed by many as “just a tourist trap,” The Pirates House is one of the oldest structures in Savannah – at least its core. That began as “the gardener’s house”, and he was appointed by James Oglethorpe, himself. About 10 acres comprised the trustees garden, wherein serious botanical experimentation was conducted to find the best crops to be grown in this “new world”. The trustees’ garden produced, among other lucrative crops, indigo and coastal cotton. (Nowadays, the food in the Pirates’s House Restaurant is quite tasty.)

  8. raynard

    Julia, Hope this isn’t a rabbit hole. I have two neighbors around my age. They stop, speak and hold a conversation. The others are younger, speak but always in a hurry. The guy upstairs, I manage to have a conversation with him and his girlfriend” only when they are walking dogs and working on their car. With the invention of” cable, internet and having things shipped to your house, I miss” the nosy neighbors ala Mrs. Kravitz and don’t forget Mrs. Beaver with a string of pearls and ” freshly baked cookies. lol. I don’t talk on the phone much these days and use social media” mostly on the weekends to keep up with kids and grandkids.. It feels like fall now, still working on another vehicle and busy with cakes.( diet 2019 here we come).Hope you and Matt are well. Mary and the boys are fine. She just got back from N.C the week before last. Oh, the other comment was, me seeing several hundred people coming and going at work where I’m posting at. People look for me daily to have ” words of wisdom. Some days I do others I just say” Keep your head up”. This coming Saturday Mary and I were invited to a birthday party for a 101-year-old and then a banquet. All on the same day. Be good, be well be blessed

    • Raynard, this reminds me of something I read years ago, about how having garages with doors and automatic openers has cut neighbors off from visiting with each other. When we lived in the townhome I found how true that was. I mostly saw my neighbors when we would be going to or from our cars (in a parking lot, no garages) and we would stop to chat. Walking the dog is how I knew other neighbors that did not live on our street. In my opinion, just getting out into the neighborhood is one of the biggest reasons to have a dog that has to be walked on a regular basis. If you miss nosy neighbors I’m just the ticket. I am endlessly nosy curious about what goes on in other people’s lives, as long as it’s not sordid or x-rated. In terms of words of wisdom, sometimes “keep your head up” is all the eloquence you need. Hope your Saturday went well. Come to think of it, hope all your days go well! Thanks for being here.

Thanks for encouraging others by sharing your thoughts:

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: