On Redundancy

Redundancy is one of those words that, semantically at least, should exist apart from its prefix. Like overwhelmed. If you see a particularly beautiful sunset, you can be overwhelmed. But if the sunset is just mediocre, maybe you’re just whelmed. Or if it’s not very beautiful at all, maybe you’re underwhelmed. Same with redundant. The word means ‘more than enough’, ‘excessive’, ’superfluous’. When you are ‘made redundant,’ you are quite literally rendered superfluous. But it seems like there should be a definition for ‘dundant’ as well; maybe it would be something like ‘just about enough’, ‘more or less right’, or even simply ‘fluous’ (sans super). If you’re from Scotland and are just a little bit more than enough, then you could be wee-dundant.

When enough is enough was a major preoccupation of the Stoics. The Stoics have gotten a bad rap of late because people seem to think they advocated a cold, callous approach to life. When used as an adjective, ’stoic’ is too often a synonym for emotionless, indifferent. The Stoics actually never urged people to forsake their feelings. What they did urge was a kind of pro-active resignation: Shit happens; sometimes it goes your way, sometimes it doesn’t; resistance is futile, so accept what has happened and then make the best of it. It was ‘enough’ for the Stoics to maintain an internal equanimity regardless of what shit was going down around them. As Epicurus said:

Nothing is sufficient for the man to whom the sufficient is too little.

Now into my fourth week of superfluity I’ve discovered there’s more than enough to keep me busy. On Friday evenings, I’ve been taking my youngest son to choir practice. This was something I was never able to do before because I always worked late on Friday nights. I sit in the back of the church, marveling at how such rowdy boys can have such beautiful, ethereal voices. I think how lucky I am to be here listening to my son sing like an angel. I’m going to stop writing so much about losing my job now. That would be redundant. I’m going to write more about things like my son’s choir practice. Overwhelming.