A lot of the people I’m surrounded by always say to find content with your life, but the way I see it content is more of a hindering quality than a positive one. Anything that’s ever been accomplished has been because people weren’t happy with the way things were and went after change. Even evolution itself goes against being content. Why should we all live content lives instead of trying to change things until the bitter end?
I think a distinction should be made between personal contentment and contentment with the state of the world. I see personal contentment from a sort of Taoist, ride-the-waves perspective. This sort of contentment simply means accepting that circumstances and feelings will continually change, but that I will try to embrace the changes and remain appreciative of what I have. I think one can attain this sort of contentment while also being severely discontented with the state of the world. Thich Nhat Hanh is a good example. A Zen Buddhist monk, he’s probably one of the most gently blissful beings on Earth, but he has spent much of his life as an activist, writing or attending events, promoting world peace. He’s not content with the state of the world, but he has made peace with his state of being as a finite human in a strange universe. Hope this helps.
Hmmm, putting things into perspective…
There are two people traveling in a desert. They heard a rumor about some treasure and are there searching for it. They explored the desert plains for hours upon hours, days upon days in an extremely hot and humid climate looking for the treasure. Soon their search left them exhausted. Eventually they came across a small village located right next to an oasis. Once there, they ate good food, met interesting people, and cooled off in the refreshing oasis waters. Upon leaving however, there was a discrepancy between the two. One of them wanted to go on and continue looking for the treasure, but the other wanted to stay there in the village.
The one who wanted to continue searching pleaded, “Please my friend, let us continue on our journey. Let us move forward and find the treasure we were looking for.” The traveler who wanted to stay replied, “I no longer desire the treasure we were seeking. I find myself very content in this place we have found. It is paradise.” The one who wanted to search more went on, “But my friend, do you not understand what the treasure could do for us? We could perpetually have anything we want. All of our desires could be fulfilled.” Still not wanting to leave, the friend responded, “We don’t even know if the treasure really exist, nor are we very close to uncovering it. Do you really wish to continue with no guarantee of finding it?” The one still intent on searching thought about the friend’s words. With an unshaken resolve to continue he said, “Even if the treasure never reaches me, I’ll still find satisfaction in knowing I did everything I could to reach it. I’ll ask once more, will you continue the search with me?” The other traveler replied, “I’m sorry my friend, but I will not. This village is a treasure in and of itself. I hope you find what your looking for.”
Some find value in seeking more. Others find it in what already is.
I feel like I am perpetually in this state. That my inner dialogue is constantly debating whether to the stay in the village or go looking for the treasure alone. I am told by the masters that I need to stop clinging to my friends, but then the searching for the treasure often feels like a craving. I need to transcend this place of right and wrong. And the zen koan message is that once I achieve enlightenment I will understand that the two choice aren’t actually different and lead to the same place.
It all comes down to being able to give as much as your demands are and practicing what you preach. Otherwise you’ll be beating yourself up. The thing about contentedness is a play of semantics. If a person isn’t happy with a status quo they have two rights basically. One is to be happy, and the other to actually try feeling rewarded/content. That’s all great and shit, but pretentiousness and pettiness won’t save a person if you show them the holy grail.
People want to be the fathers and inventors of the holy grail sometimes. That’s keeping them from feeling fulfilled. If the end is all about how someone feels, why not focus on that entirely? Beats me.
Came across this quote on another discussion today:
“Indeed happiness is a choice not a reaction to a stimulus.”
I saw that too. Prakash, I think. He’s the man if he’s a man.
In my opinion lack of aspiration for creating stimulus is a choice and a self-nurturing action-reaction, but when people are on a path of reaching their potential it is often seen as an example of threat instead as an example of non-competitive growth. It’s not so bad to be a threat for people who lack peace of mind. It could turn into curiosity as opposing to stagnating ignorance.
I wrote this to a friend the other day
“Mentally I’m more broken then I have ever been while at the same time having more clarity. I’m overrun by thinking and lost in my head…as always. But starting to have the epiphany that living is an active pursuit–that sanity and happiness are choices and take dedication. I was (and still am to some degree) stuck in a passive mode of letting life wash over me–but I am slowly learning to sharpen my mind and take control…minutes of focus lead to hours lead to days and so on with some success…and many setbacks But, with that learned focus comes gratitude and appreciation and a sense of universal love. I am certain I am on the right path but also recognize that there is no destination and that is, at least for me, the eternal struggle. (Until I recognize that I don’t need to struggle and then it will probably come naturally…)”
What if you’re not broken, but just thinking you are? Thinking is very bad without doing. It’s like you create an idea that you are on this path of righteousness and a different idea of being lost in your head. Without thinking you’d never be lost. Feel for a change.
What do I know? I can reach euphoria if I force myself to be creative.
What I don’t understand fully is the OP. “Why should we all live content lives instead of trying to change things until the bitter end?”
Being content with positive change is being truly satisfied. If a person can’t recognize positivity or find it hard to make someone else content it’s very possible he’ll have a bad time.
Yes, I see your point. It goes back to Prakash’s quote. If “you try to change things to the bitter end” then you are rearranging stimulus in an attempt to be happy. Exhibiting gratitude and happiness regardless of the stimulus seems a more sure attempt at living a peaceful journey. But the key is to keep the mind active to search each new stimulus and to render the response positively. This is different than letting life passively wash over you. This is about a constant, unfaltering observer. The true self.
Great replies! I know some of it was a bit extreme but I threw it in there for the same of argument. To use the quote, what i was getting at is that once you become content, there’s so much you miss. Like the man that stays in the village must miss so much of the world and a journey that he could’ve greatly grown from. And that wouldn’t the one who chose to pursue his treasure be better because of all his growth and how he challenged himself?
There’s just this notion that hard work pays off with wonderful joy, when in fact it squeezes the person to feel rewarded. That’s why a person should love what he’s doing hard, simply put, because it’s going to be the payoff itself. Doing what you love is challenging against doing what’s handed to you. Uncle Steve Jobs said some cool things about it, even if people hated his ass. I don’t think he suffered fools. “Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice.” “Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me. Going to bed at night saying we’ve done something wonderful… that’s what matters to me.”
But in a subjective sense, they’re not really missing anything, because to them they feel that they have everything. They’re content with what they’ve done, and where they are now.
Assuming that the purpose of life is to grow, well, in a sense, you were only able to grow because of the people who felt content enough in their lives to conceive and help you grow, yea? So it seems as though we grow until we feel we have grown enough to a point in which we can help others grow. Or we choose to continue to grow ourselves.
I think the people who tell you to find contentment, really mean get to a place in your life in which you’re happy. Whether it’s in some random desert village, perhaps raising a family, or traveling the world and growing from your experiences, just find satisfaction in something.
The fact is a person is always missing something if he stops trying to understand new things, but teaches people how to stop growing too. It should be like this – if the person who is content doesn’t miss anything, he would have no right to complain his life isn’t perfect. Ever. Because he’s content.. It’s a ridiculous claim and it’s not aiding anybody, including himself.
That is a really interesting perspective MonkeyZazu. I feel like I am perpetually in this state. That my inner dialogue is constantly debating whether to the stay in the village or go looking for the treasure alone. I am told by the masters that I need to stop clinging to my friends in the village, but then the searching for the treasure often feels like a craving and is very solitary. I need to transcend this place of right and wrong. And the zen koan message is that once I achieve enlightenment I will understand that the two choice aren’t actually different and that they both lead to the same place.
Yea. That’s kind of a common thing with treasure, isn’t it? The treasure itself is phenomenal beyond reckoning, but getting to it and what’s required to reach it is often a bitch! You know, or perhaps think it’ll be worth it, but still you second guess yourself. Should I really give up what a cherish to pursue the treasure I seek? – that is the question. Something to gain, but always something to lose…. Maybe that’s the point.
Regarding koans, this one reminds me of what you were referring to.
101. Buddha’s Zen
Buddha said: “I consider the positions of kings and rulers as that of dust motes. I observe treasures of gold and gems as so many bricks and pebbles. I look upon the finest silken robes as tattered rags. I see myriad worlds of the universe as small seeds of fruit, and the greatest lake in India as a drop of oil on my foot. I perceive the teachings of the world to be the illusion of magicians. I discern the highest conception of emancipation as a golden brocade in a dream, and view the holy path of the illuminated ones as flowers appearing in one’s eyes. I see meditation as a pillar of a mountain, Nirvana as a nightmare of daytime. I look upon the judgment of right and wrong as the serpentine dance of a dragon, and the rise and fall of beliefs as but traces left by the four seasons.”