David Willis April 3, 2008 TR – 7:00 Student # 44 When All You’ve Ever Wanted Isn’t Enough Harold S. Kushner wrote When All You’ve Ever Wanted Isn’t enough in 1986 and was awarded the Christopher Medal for it in 1995. Although this book was very successful, Kushner is actually better known for writing his bestseller, When Bad Things Happen to Good People which has been translated into fourteen different languages. Kushner received his B. A. in 1955 and his M. A. in 1960, both from Columbia University. Since then, Kushner has spent 30 years as a rabbi, earned a Ph.
D from seminary, received six honorary doctorates, edited the magazine Conservative Judaism for four years, was named clergyman of the year by the national organization Religion in American Life, and written twelve books. He is currently Rabbi Laureate of Temple Israel just outside of Boston in Natick, Massachusettes. This book is all about man’s persistent quest to find meaning in life. It’s about people who successfully reach their goals and obtain the things that they had always wanted, but then wonder why they feel so unsatisfied.
It’s about people feeling like their life is meaningless and that when they die, they will be forgotten as if they had never lived. This book reveals some of the misconceptions dealing with finding meaning and happiness. “It is a book about giving your life meaning, feeling that you have used your time on earth well and not wasted it, and that the world will be different for your having passed through it. ” This book draws heavily from what Kushner refers to as “the most dangerous book in the Bible,” Ecclesiastes.
In this brief, unusual passage of the Bible, the skeptical author challenges the benefit of man to be good and wise. He has arrived at the conclusion that being good and wise will not make you any better off than someone who is wicked and foolish, for all people have the same fate. Nevertheless, Ecclesiastes is not willing to give up on his search for meaning. This book “accompanies Ecclesiastes on five well-traveled paths that turned out to be dead ends, the way of selfishness and self-interest, the way of renouncing all bodily leasures, the way of wisdom, the path of avoiding all feeling in an effort to avoid pain, and the path of piety and religious surrender. ” Although all of these paths failed to produce meaning, Ecclesiastes does discover an answer. He concludes that there is not one “Great Answer,” but rather many little answers that together give life meaning. He advises us that little things like food, wine, fresh clothes, and love are what we should find joy and happiness in.
From this, Kushner elaborates to include us finding pleasure in our work, sunsets, and the change in seasons in order to “make each individual day a human experience. ” Kushner later concludes that once you obtain satisfaction with what you have done with your life, you will no longer be afraid to die. Kushner’s ultimate conclusion and the thesis of this book is that the things that you must do in order to feel like you have lived your life well and not wasted it is to belong to people, accept pain as part of your life, and know that you have made a difference.
Although this book was written to tell people how to live meaningful lives and not necessarily how to solve ethical dilemmas, there are some ethical conclusions that can be drawn. This book implies that ethical egoists will not find satisfaction by looking out for their own self interest. Kushner explains that when you are just looking out for yourself, you unknowingly see others as competitors. This competitive attitude will tend to separate you from other people. When we become isolated, we become less human, and are less able to enjoy our lives.
We should instead try to develop healthy relationships with others by being as concerned about their feelings and needs as much as our own. This is not to say that an ethical egoist cannot be successful. They can, but if you become successful at the expense of everyone around you by always thinking of yourself and never of others, you will find yourself all alone. And “one human being is no human being. ” Kushner’s closing thought in this book is that we feel better about ourselves when we are held to a high moral standard.
This is because God created us so that when we follow our moral nature, we feel spiritually healthy. The ethical theory that ties in with this is the Divine Command Theory. Kushner claims that God’s commandments give our lives meaning and importance because they give us purpose: to do His will. His moral standards also help us fulfill our own need to be good by showing us that God expects much of us. Having God expect highly of us motivates us to live up to His standards. This is to our benefit because we tend to feel depressed and guilty when we don’t live moral lives.