How much?

For some time this photo from an inspirational book has been circulating on social media.

At a party given by a billionaire on Shelter Island, Kurt Vonnegut informs his pal, Joseph Heller, that their host, a hedge fund manager, had made more money in a single day than Heller had earned from his wildly popular novel Catch-22 over its whole history. Heller responds, “Yes, but I have something he will never have…enough.”

It’s a wise insight and maybe a needed corrective in our culture. But I wanted to know where it came from.

The source of the story turns out to be a poem published by Kurt Vonnegut in the New Yorker magazine in 2005. It’s delightful — and, even better, it’s only 92 words long:

True Story, Word of Honor:
Joseph Heller, an important and funny writer
now dead,
and I were at a party given by a billionaire
on Shelter Island.
I said, “Joe, how does it make you feel
to know that our host only yesterday
may have made more money
than your novel ‘Catch-22’
has earned in its entire history?”
And Joe said, “I’ve got something he can never have.”
And I said, “What on earth could that be, Joe?”
And Joe said, “The knowledge that I’ve got enough.”
Not bad! Rest in Peace!

Quoted in Enough: True Measure of Money, Business, and Life by John Bogle