When I was a child, my mother would occasionally buy us a dozen confectionery sugar-coated doughnuts in a blue box from Reynolds’ Doughnuts. On the side there was a picture and a poem. The picture was a tree with two men sitting under it, one on each side. The man on the left is contemplating a fat doughnut with a small hole. The man on the right is contemplating a skinny doughnut with a large hole. My recollection is that poem read, “As you ramble on through life, brother, whatever be your goal, keep your eye upon the doughnut, and not upon the hole.”
Nothing reflects abundance more concretely than a doughnut, rich in fat and sugar and calories, if somewhat lacking in nutritional value. But it is the picture these words paint that reminds us that we have abundance if we choose to see it.
We experience a great deal of life as hole rather than doughnut, scarcity rather than abundance. In a world of scarcity, competition is the way we relate to others. Winner take all. Second best is just another word for losing. Grading on the curve will only allow so many A’s. More immigrants means fewer jobs for Americans. Not getting into your first choice school means that your college degree will have no value. Fear of failure that leads us to not even try to succeed. Greed, envy, and fear replace gratitude, empathy, and joy in our interaction with other people.
I just spent a few days at one of my favorite places, John. C. Campbell Folk School in the North Carolina mountains, where the focus is non-competitive learning of a variety of arts and crafts. No blue ribbons, no invidious comparisons of my work with that of others. Room for many levels of skill, many forms of self-expression, in which we encourage others and get encouragement in return.
I used to want to create heaven on earth, but that’s far beyond my reach. Maybe creating some oases of abundance, joy, empathy and gratitude is the best we can do. I know where one of my oases is. Where are yours?