Cleverness is serviceable

August 22nd, 2009

Cleverness is serviceable for everything, sufficient for nothing – Fortune cookie

I once got a fortune cookie that said that. Not exactly. This guy said it first. I was so impressed that I kept the slip of paper in my wallet for about 20 years. Eventually I cleaned out my wallet, it might please you to know, but you can see how dear these words are to me still. Needless to say, the fortune came true. It is the truest fortune I’ve ever seen. It is the truest fortune there is. It is everyone’s fortune.

What does it mean?

Surely you know. You’re smart and clever. Perhaps too smart and clever. Cleverness works, for a time. You can look “serviceable” up in the dictionary. You can figure some stuff out. You can get better at certain things. You can acquire knowledge and skills. You can work harder and longer. Figure out Twitter. Get a leg up on the next thing. You can do more, be better liked, with a bigger reputation. You can set a goal and maybe even reach it. And then another. And another.

But is it ever sufficient?

As long as you are in the realm of cleverness, it is not sufficient. By that I mean, as long as you are in the realm of judging yourself and your life as being one way or the other (good/no good, full/empty, success/fail, made/not made) it is not sufficient. How do you know? Because you will still feel insufficient. You will still feel as though there is something more, better, greater and more fulfilling for you to get. At the same time, it will seem as though there are a few charmed folks on the other side of the scale who already “got” it. But I promise you, whatever it looks like they “got,” they didn’t “get” nearly enough.

You can acquire many things through cleverness, but sufficiency is not one of them.

That being said, cleverness is serviceable for something truly wonderful and life altering. Cleverness will bring you to the last gasp of cleverness; to the end of judgment, greed and envy; to the brink of chronic dissatisfaction and despair. It will bring you to the starting point for sufficiency. A chance to be content with things as they are, the fortune you already possess, the potential for deep and radiating joy, and a life that goes far beyond anything you can engineer.

How do I know? It brought you here.

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  1. In fact, it brought me to your backyard, and then right back to my own backyard, which is currently brimming with crickets.

    I'm so thankful. This is the post of my life, beyond anything I could possibly dream up with this clever, comparing, scheming mind of mine.

    I write this instead with my heart.

    Comment by jena strong — August 23, 2009 @ 1:55 am

  2. Thank you for this post today. jeNN

    Comment by big Jenn — August 23, 2009 @ 2:13 am

  3. You have a way with words! It is exquisite and this particular post is so relevant to me now. Thank you Karen.

    Comment by M — August 23, 2009 @ 3:40 am

  4. You are a clever writer, cutting right to the heart of the matter, over and over again.

    As M says, it is exquisite. I am amazed and grateful, again.


    Comment by Stacy (Mama-Om) — August 23, 2009 @ 3:52 am

  5. what?! I can figure out Twitter?
    ( i know, clever…)


    Comment by wifemotherexpletive — August 23, 2009 @ 12:56 pm

  6. it brought me to your backyard as well. and for that, my cup runneth over.

    Comment by Jill — August 23, 2009 @ 1:00 pm

  7. are you telling me I'm rich?

    Comment by DQ's Windmill — August 23, 2009 @ 7:50 pm

  8. I'm telling you to be poor!

    Comment by Karen Maezen Miller — August 23, 2009 @ 8:00 pm

  9. very clever…

    Comment by latisha — August 24, 2009 @ 8:58 pm

  10. just saw this after posting a variation on the same theme. we are sympatico, though you, as usual, have arrived ahead of me!

    Comment by Kyran — August 24, 2009 @ 10:06 pm

  11. Ah, oh yes! (Sigh.) When will it bring me to your backyard again?

    Comment by ShariMacD — August 24, 2009 @ 10:10 pm

  12. Good thing since I'm not feeling particularly clever. But I have been feeling very very blessed (despite all that is lacking).

    Now if you would only come to Oregon …

    Comment by Shalet — August 25, 2009 @ 3:35 am

  13. Thank you Karen. For reminding me of that which I have always known but keep forgetting due to how clever I have become.

    Comment by Meg Casey — August 27, 2009 @ 4:44 pm

  14. Nothing is sufficient for the person who finds sufficiency too little. –Epicurus

    Comment by Valerie — August 31, 2009 @ 1:58 am

  15. That person can never find sufficiency.

    Comment by Karen Maezen Miller — August 31, 2009 @ 2:01 am

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