Day 269: The Man and the Two-Thirds Rule; ‘Prudent’

My first selection for National Poetry Month is a poem by American poet Kenneth Koch that I think is very relevant to my current stage in life, and I believe it would be prudent for most people to pay attention to its message as well.

Social Life, With Friends

-poem by Kenneth Koch

You want a social life, with friends.

A passionate love life and as well

to work hard every day. What’s true

is of these three you may have two

and two can pay you dividends.

But never may have three.

There isn’t time enough, my friends-

though dawn begins and midnight ends-

to find the time to have love, work, and friends.

Michelangelo had feeling

for Vittoria and the Ceiling

but did he go to parties at day’s end?

Homer nightly went to banquets

wrote all day but had no lockets

bright with pictures of his Girl. 

I know one who loves and parties

and has done so since his thirties

but writes hardly anything at all.

A long long time ago, back in college, my ex and I had a conversation about this poem. She refused to believe or accept it. She wholeheartedly wanted to prove it wrong and tried to hold onto anything and everything. I guess in a way she never outgrew that hopelessly optimistic perspective, for better or for worse. I never had a problem with seeing the world in this way. But I think that’s because, and you should all understand this, this is not a particularly negative or hopeless opinion. It’s a strangely unique perspective I think characteristic of a certain majority that not having it all means not having enough. That to be necessarily ‘missing out’ on one aspect is somehow indicative of a life not lived fully. But having ‘two can pay you dividends’, remember? It’s not about ability, or even capacity. It’s about time and effort and passion. You cannot feasibly be one-hundred percent committed to one hundred things. So rather than focus on what I may not have (as I was wont to do in the beginning of this all), I’ve learned to love what I do. I have no love right now. But I write more than I ever have. And though my friends and I are not as close, I still have a healthy and happy social life, supplemented with social gatherings like this weekend with new groups of new people, taking myself out to do the things I love and meet people along the way, and appreciating the people I do have in my life when they are there. How could I say I am incomplete, unsatisfied, or underachieving?

Not having it all is not the same as having nothing. And instead of focusing on the missing third, we can shift our perspective to understand and appreciate what we do have. In all reality, if or when I find someone, to give her the attention and care and love that we both desire and deserve, I will need to make time for her. Make room for her. And there simply isn’t enough, my friends. Right now I am focused on my career and furthering it and maybe changing or moving it. I am writing and learning and growing. I am socializing and meeting. It is a good fit for who I am and what stage of life I currently am in. These things shift and change, and though we may never have all three at the same time, there is nothing stopping us from happily and enthusiastically pursuing two at a time and feeling the benefit and satisfaction of that pursuit. Take this not as a warning, or even as a negative outlook. If anything, ever since realizing these three major aspects of life and how they work in contrast and comparison, I am much more at ease and find it easier to enjoy what I do have. I’m not trying too hard running around trying to hold onto everything.

Please, enjoy.

Day 269

Man: 236 Loneliness: 33

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6 thoughts on “Day 269: The Man and the Two-Thirds Rule; ‘Prudent’

  1. Agree! The concept of “having it all”, “doing it all” etc. is the source of much stress and dissatisfaction in the world. And delusional at the core. You simply can’t do everything, at least not to any degree of completeness. Better to focus on fewer things, and doing them well! I’d never seen that poem before but it’s a great observation. Pick two, and be OK with not “having it all” with the 3rd.

    Related & reccommended reading – excellent book called “Essentialism – the disciplined pursuit of less” by Greg McKeown. It’s a quick read, and I’ve gone back and re-read it a few times. Good reminder of the benefits of focusing.

    http://amzn.to/2oy1i9W

    Enjoying the site! A meta comment – always remember: it’s better to be single, than to wish you were… 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks for the recommendation! ‘Essentialism’ could certainly apply to a lot of aspects in my life, from my constant travel for work, to trying to find time for everything, to recognizing the worth in certain pursuits over others. I always appreciate a great recommendation and I will certainly look into getting this. Might be great airplane reading next time.
      I’m glad you’ve enjoyed what you’ve read so far, and I agree. Better to be happy in your situation than to wish you were in a different one.

      Liked by 2 people

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