A Swedish word, although a concept that is shared across Scandinavia, it means not too much, not too little – just right. The wags amongst us would probably christen it the Goldilocks concept, but it’s not about trying everything till you find the one that suits you, it’s … well, I’ll hand you over to chef and author Bronte Aurell who runs the Scandinavian Kitchen in London’s Fitzrovia with her husband Jonas …
“Lagom is the median, the middle, the appropriate. Back in the Viking days, mead would be passed around … and everyone would take their sips. There is something for everyone, if everyone just takes a lagom amount from the mead when it comes around. Crucially, the foundation of lagom is contentment, a sense that things are sufficient just as they are. There’s a Swedish proverb “Lagom är bäst” which literally means “The right amount is best” but is also translated as “Enough is as good as a feast” and “There is virtue in moderation”.”
But it’s not about self-deprivation especially, another commentator offered the following description “When you spend £300 on a Danish design chair you expect it to last at least 25 years.” Remember when those who could afford to bought things for life? Something hand crafted in good quality materials, worn or used for life, mended and repaired as needed? Of course the poorer in society had to make do with cheap equivalents which wouldn’t last, no matter how well cared for. But, somewhere along the line, more of us chose the cheap equivalents, content to discard when worn out or when boredom thresholds were reached.
First world Society – outside of Scandinavia presumably – seems skewed to the acquisition of material things, for how many of us make an active choice to limit what we have to what we need? Houses – sizes and locations, cars – age and potential for speed, clothes – newness and trendiness, these have all become factors in how we’re perceived in terms of our success and worth. Yet we rarely give value to kindness, to treading lightly upon the earth. Those who perform services within their local community are dubbed “do-gooders” in a faintly scornful manner, rather than given society’s grateful thanks or being held in esteem.
But surely success doesn’t have to be loud and brash, or have to involve big, new, flash and shiny? Why can’t it be about having enough, being satisfied with enough, giving value to enough? Why doesn’t it involve doing more for others – either friends or strangers, building memories with those you love, acquiring experiences rather than more stuff? Surely it could involve more kindness, more compassion, more respect?
Imagine a world where therapists don’t have to spend a vast amount of time convincing their clients they’re good enough. If we didn’t have this acquisitive society, where we measured ourselves and others by those false values, we might become more content, more willing to believe in good enough. Yes, I’m a cock-eyed optimist, an idealist and bleedin’ heart liberal, but am I wrong to firmly believe that society needs to re-think how it lives and to what it gives value?
© Debra Carey, 2018