Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Contentment and Happiness

Recently a friend asked me what I thought the difference was between happiness and contentment. Since our conversation I have been thinking about this a lot. I'm sure that Daniel Webster has definitions for these words but I would like to share a few thoughts about what they mean to me. I think contentment is when you have everything you need. For example, at this time of my life I have all the material things I need and want. I live in a nice house and I drive a nice car. I eat good food at home and I can go out to restaurants a lot. I have good books to read, great music to listen to, and a variety of wonderful coffees to drink. I wear nice clothes and I am fortunate to have been employed by the same company for a very long time. Within reason I have everything I need and want. It would be very selfish for me to complain about the material comfort and contentment that I experience in life at this time. Things, however, do not usually make you happy over the long term. I think happiness becomes part of your contentment when you also have emotional and spiritual fulfillment. Good health is also a plus. Although I have all the things I need and want, my emotional and spiritual fulfillment are often lacking. There are still too many unresolved issues, too much spiritual longing, frequent feelings of emptiness, and lack of clear purpose in my life for me to feel any deep sense of happiness. I also deal with some chronic health conditions on a daily basis that sometimes depress and annoy me. This is not to say I am a miserable person. I am not. In spite of an uneasy alliance between great contentment and elusive happiness, I sometimes feel, in the words of C.S. Lewis, “surprised by joy”. Usually without warning, and never planned, I have moments of pure joy when life makes sense, I feel a sense of oneness with the universe, and I have a flashes of clarity about life when everything seems exactly as it should be. I call these Zen moments. They don’t last and they cannot be manufactured or arranged. They just happen, I enjoy them while they last, and I try to live my life with a sense of Buddhist wakefulness and contemplative awareness so I recognize and notice them in the noisy and busy world in which I live. Overall I feel blessed and I strive to always have a greatful heart for all things whether they seem good or they test me.

1 comment:

Kristy Cambron said...

C.S. Lewis ... I'm always blown away by his insightfulness (and yours, by the way). Thanks for penning such thought-provoking posts. K-