When John D. Rockefeller, the world's richest man in his time, was once asked “How much money is enough?” He replied, “Just a little bit more.”
I get it. I dove back into the jigsaw puzzle world and started assembling a new 1,000-piece puzzle at 8 am yesterday. It was a lovely day outside and I fully intended get out and walk, but I kept promising myself, “Just a few more pieces.” And then breaking my promise over and over again. I guess that’s how addiction— or at least obsession—works.
If we are in the grips of its hold, obsessing about jigsaw puzzles is pretty benign. It feeds some neurocircuits in my brain that make me feel wholly engaged and a little bit more alive and alert, gives a steady stream of dopamime rushes as each piece clicks into place and offers some aesthetic satisfaction as the image slowly gathers into coherence. My wife out of town and my children grown and me retired, it’s not taking me away from family or social obligations. If I’m prone to mild addiction, it’s not a bad choice.
In fact, it seems like many of the people we admire are driven by some engine of obsession. Shooting 10,000 free throws, practicing piano eight hours a day, meditating in 7-day intensive Zen sesshin retreats from 3 in the morning to midnight, takes both will power and an inner drive that refuses to stop. With results that bring some measure of pleasure, happiness and healing to both oneself and the world.
By contrast, Rockefeller and his ilk’s obsession with making more and more money just for the sake of making more and more money brings harm to both the soul and society. (More on this in a future blogpost). So if you are blessed or cursed with an obsessive personality, be careful what you choose to do. The “just a little bit more” story perfectly describes my experience yesterday and helps me understand John D. Rockefeller better and feel like we share something in common. The object of our obsession is where we part company.
I finally did get out for a robust walk yesterday.