Living an “Enough” Life


Orchids © 2012 Bo Mackison

To do the useful thing,
to say the courageous thing,
to contemplate the beautiful thing,
that is enough for any man’s life.
~ T.S. Eliot

Do you ever find a few words of a poem or a quotation that speaks loudly to you? When I read the above lines, I was impressed by the simplicity of the verse, by the truth of those few words, and how difficult it would be to live life by this recipe. The paradox – too simple and too difficult, so I stored the quote in my notebook and moved on.

But what is the benefit of writing down quotations that speak to you if you refuse to listen? I found the quote again yesterday when I was preparing for this post. Again, the few words and the big message fascinated me. And this time, instead of turning the page, I wrote the lines on an index card and stuck the card in my pocket. And whenever I became aware of the card, I pulled it out and re-read the words.

Although I will deny it, I am often a perfectionist. Especially when it comes to reading great words of wisdom, and then avoiding the message because  I say to myself  “too hard” and “impossible” and “I could never do that.” If I could not always do the useful thing, nor say the courageous thing, nor see the beauty in everything around me, then there was no reason to try.

After I had pulled the card out of my pocket a half-dozen times, pondering its message each time, shrugging away the message, and returning the card to my pocket, I had a new insight. Eliot did not write the word always in his words. There was no always or never, can or cannot, do or do not. I realized that there was a middle way.

What if my goal was to do one useful thing each day, say one courageous thing (even silently to myself counted) each day, and contemplated one beautiful thing each day? That would be a great beginning. And, most important, it would be something I could do, something I could commit to, and something I could easily evaluate. A brief check-in in my journal each night would take only moments, but would give me a way of tracking my commitment, my progress.

So I have added T.S. Eliot’s advice for living an “enough” life to my to-do list. I find having an easy to follow guide, and an awareness of a plan, makes it possible for me to achieve goals like this.


Bo Mackison is a photographer and owner of Seeded Earth Studio LLC. She contemplated the beautiful during the portrait session she did with these orchids, a gift she received from her daughter last Christmas.

About Bo Mackison

I'm a photographer, book-artist, traveler, naturalist, and creator of the Contemplative Creatives Journey, An Online Workshop and Community and Desert Wisdom Cards and Workshops. Though often not well known, I find the desert a welcoming place - a healing space. Its mysteries and gifts transformed me several years ago. Since that first encounter, I return again and again to fill my well in what most people think of as a desolate region. I'd love to share my desert discoveries and wisdom with you. Please subscribe to receive my five part mini email course The Gifts of the Desert. It's my gift to you.


  1. That’s beautiful Bo, and such a great way to approach it. Thanks – you’ve got me thinking about what my version of this would look like.

    • Bo Mackison says:

      Thank you, Joanna. It seems we have a similar approach to life, nature, words. I’d love to know what the Joanna version looks like.

  2. I love this, Bo. Like Joanna, I’m wondering about my own version, and how I would go about it. 🙂

Leave a Reply