When All You've Ever Wanted Isn't Enough Summary

Harold Kushner

When All You’ve Ever Wanted Isn’t Enough

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Rabbi Kushner’s best-selling WHEN BAD THINGS HAPPEN TO GOOD PEOPLE has helped many through the trauma of senseless suffering. His present book is for those who ask “What is the answer that gives life meaning?”

Building loosely on the book of ECCLESIASTES and using insights from the psychology of Carl Jung, Kushner examines and rejects the goals often recommended by the world. Fame and fortune, when sought at the expense of human relationships, are empty pursuits.

Kushner rejects both indulgence and renunciation. Emotional indifference may save us pain by not letting us care too much about anything, but it does so at the expense of all true feeling. Worldly knowledge is not the answer, but neither is surrender to authoritarian religion.

In the end, says Kushner, there is no “Answer.” If, however, there is no “Answer,” there are “answers.” “We can only deal with it day by day, a constant struggle to fill life each day with one day’s worth of meaning.”

This book will appeal most to middle-aged readers who are re-examining life goals. It is neither as universal nor as profound as WHEN BAD THINGS HAPPEN TO GOOD PEOPLE. Though the author is able to define the problem of “living meaningfully,” he is less able to provide convincing solutions.

If the suggested answers seem a bit simplistic, it is because they are ideals rather than reachable goals. Rabbi Kushner is proposing not a shift of objectives but an entire revolution in attitude as the cure for meaninglessness. He may be right, but the reader may wonder if it is really possible to get there from here.