I was intrigued by this title of a weekly column by Leo Babauta who writes on the topic of “Zen Habits.” Translated from the Japanese words ware tada shira taru, the phrase “all you need, you already have” are words we should aspire to live by. As Mr. Babauta says, “It’s a lovely way of looking at life.”
He urges people to expand our appreciation of what we have instead of always wanting more. “Chances are, you have enough food, clothing, shelter, and other basic necessities in your life. You might also have loved ones who care about you. You are without any desperate needs.”
I believe his words apply especially to writers. As EMUs, you already have one of the basic necessities of being – or becoming – a published writer. You have an imagination. You have a computer. You have manuscripts. You have an agent. In Mr. Babauta words, “All you need, you already have.”
But many of us don’t recognize this. If we haven’t yet been published, we worry that it won’t happen. If we have been published, we briefly celebrate and then begin stewing about whether we’ll ever get another manuscript accepted. If we’ve had multiple books published, we worry that the streak is about to end.
I thought of the need to appreciate what we had after reading a lengthy and heartfelt obituary last spring in my local paper. (Yes, I’m a writer who is intrigued by how families and friends sum up the lives of their loved ones.) Here’s an abridged excerpt:
William H. Lewis, “Popcorn,” age 91, passed peacefully in the warm spring sunshine of Monday, April 25 after planting his final garden. . . Reared on the family farm, he grew and sold vegetables. Following high school graduation, Popcorn served in the Pacific from 1943-1946. He returned to farming when he retired from B.F. Goodrich in 1986. Popcorn lived a full life of adventure, bewilderment, achievement, misfortune, and joy. He was a farmer, WWII vet, marathon runner, humanitarian, dancer, freshwater angler, musician, hunter, and artist. Friend to many delightful (and peculiar) characters. . . Popcorn showed us that life doesn’t have to be perfect to be wonderful.
What a great tribute! What loving and insightful writing! I wish I had known this man. Popcorn clearly savored and appreciated his imperfect life. He lived as Leo Babauta urges us to live: By remembering that we already have enough, “we can appreciate the beauty, the preciousness of every moment of being alive.” Whether we publish a hundred books, one book, or none at all, we already have what we need.