the sweet spot – life with limits

Good Work, Yearning for Home
tree by water in Sukhothai

It seems to me that life is designed to be lived in the sweet spot.

My first memory of the term comes from golf in which the “sweet spot” refers to that part of the face of the club that results in the perfect feel of the swing and response of the ball. Hitting a shot perfectly in the sweet spot, rather than on the edges of the club, is an incredibly rewarding experience.

But I get the impression that the notion of a sweet spot is apt for all of life. We’re not wired to appreciate the whole range of possibility; we’re wired to thrive in the sweet spot, a place that is within flexible but real limits in which everything seems to come together and work out well.

Examples are endless: our eyes sees light in a narrow range of wavelengths and our ears hear a limited frequency of sounds. From research, we know that we thrive on a sweet spot of choices: we yearn for a certain amount of freedom but are stressed and overwhelmed when there are too many options and not enough guidance.

A relatively newcomer on the scene of human life threatens to push us out of the sweet spot. Technological capitalism is oriented toward surpassing all limits. Everything is pushed toward a massive scale that is far from the sweet spot in which we can know as individuals and communities how to make wise and ethical decisions. The normal limits that this “growth” (which I put in brackets because it is cancerous and unhealthy) should face are always reframed as problems to be solved by more technology and more of an increase in scale. It is no longer self-correcting (unless we think of disastrous consequences).

We are now faced with the reality in which, in spite of some emerging awareness that technological capitalism in its present form is an out of control monster destroying our way of life, we don’t know what to do because the monster seems already too big to fight. Much of humanity and more and more of our natural world is stressed to extremes rather than balanced in a sweet spot, and we’re feeling paralyzed.

Prophets like E. F. Schumacher (Small is Beautiful) and Wendell Berry have been among our wisest voices urging us to appreciate the beauty of limits. We are not meant to push to the extremes if we want ourselves and others to live well. We are meant to explore the mystery and the (paradoxical) simple intricacy of the ways in which we can work with each other and with the environment to find the sweet spot in which life can thrive.

When I read people like Schumacher and Berry, occasionally hope pushes away the pessimism. Could their words be like the stones with which David surprisingly toppled Goliath? Perhaps if enough of us pay attention, we can find the sweet spot that can be the undoing of technological capitalism before it becomes the undoing of lives worth living.tree by water in Sukhothai

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