Monday, December 6, 2010

The Tale of Good Enough

The Tale of Good Enough

The Betterthans were a large and vigorous clan, known to all in the village. Each member of the family was superior in one way or another, and sometimes in several ways. It was no wonder that every villager looked first to the Betterthans to find a husband or wife, an employee, or a friend.

Choosing the right Betterthan was no simple matter, however. It wasn’t like picking out one of the Bests (who, if they had ever really lived in the village, had left long ago). For every Betterthan had, along with undisputed fine points, one or more flaws. Sometimes obvious, sometimes hard to spot. Sometimes trivial, sometimes serious indeed. Over time they would emerge. Eventually you might find yourself with someone whose outstanding qualities more than made up for a few minor defects. Or you could wind up with someone whose superficial virtues paled beside egregious faults.

Knowing this, some people jumped in with their first instincts, made their choice of Betterthan and hoped it would pan out. Others conducted long and anxious deliberations, which somewhat improved their ability to predict, but also, not infrequently, wore them out.

Sometimes, to one worn down in just this way, there appeared a member of another clan: the Goodenoughs. They made no promise larger than their name.

And the one seeking a spouse might conclude, “Leave Betterthan for later. For now, this Goodenough will do.”

And the one seeking a worker, “Goodenough will do.”

And the one in need of a friend, “Goodenough will do.”

And, sure enough, the marriage, factory, friendship was built with Goodenough as the ground floor. And seeing that it could be done, others followed suit. And soon none, or very few, bothered with the risky spin of Betterthans. And none, or very few, perceived a loss.

And almost no one would undo the intricate expanding architecture—kids, houses, factories, relationships, whole movements and histories—predicated on the once-provisional choice of Goodenough.

Only once in a great while would one, remembering the shine of the Betterthans, round with vehemence upon a mate or tradesman or friend, and exclaim, “You’re not Goodenough. You’re not even Good. You’re Horrible. You’re a Disaster.”

Only to receive the mild retort: “I’m none of those. And never claimed to be.”

“You said you would be Goodenough.”

“I never did. I said I was Goodenough on the day we met. And so I was, then. Goodenough.”

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