Contentment is a vexing question as I have not had anyone ask how much, is too much of it? There just appears to be a huge shortage of it, in the modern world. The accompanying painting depicts, what may today be an old man, with his iPad, and wine with a curious grandchild. Can only the old be content, or is it a trait, that can be inculcated into 5 year old monks, who have just entered an order. Buddha said contentment came from within, and we should not look outside for it. Yet our constant contact with the external universe, is unavoidable, and we have to confront our hostile environment, and still survive and prosper.
Marcus Aurelius wrote “Live with the gods. And he who does so constantly shows them that his soul is satisfied with what is assigned to them.” The concept of plenty and a world of cornucopia overflowing, is some people’s idea of contentment. Others believe that giving up everything external, is the way to contentment (the naked saint). It is only when all our base needs in Maslow’s hierarchy are met, can we even strive for the next state, according to others. Yes the laughing young Tibetan monk has become so rare, and times have changed, as the world around us has changed. We have a belligerent China seeking its place on the world stage, or as Zhuang Zhong said to find its place in nature. We have a burning middle east, where war has displaced millions of refugees, needing humanitarian assistance for food, health and education. Countries in Africa and Asia are recovering from decades of misrule and economic backwardness. Contentment is slowly dying across our world, it seems.
For those who claim that money is the source of happiness and contentment, “There is also the concept of the diminishing marginal utility of income (DMUI), which is that money has no effect on happiness, once a certain income level has been reached, and which represents wealth and happiness as having a curvilinear relationship.” Veenhoven, Ruut (1991) stated in “Is Happiness Relative?” We have to move into a world of greater economic parity, where wealth is more broadly shared, to meet humanity’s basic needs. There is much mistaken talk of different races and religions to divide us. The last I looked there is only one human race and we are all in it together. Shared prosperity is the easiest way to increase contentment in our world, as greater wealth does not buy greater happiness
‘This is because happiness is really a state of in-and-out flow of one’s energy. Using or giving money is an expression of out-flowing of one’s life-state. Attempt to just hoard more and more in the belief that it brings more happiness can lead to the opposite result if only because the means – that is the pursuit of money for happiness – has unwittingly become the ends. (Wikipedia)’ There has to be a better way and that way was shown by the thinkers and philosophers over the centuries. I want to be that man sitting in that chair, with my communicator in hand, contemplating the state of our universe, as my body slowly turns the red wine, into me .Yet my true leisurely activity will be in playing with that grandchild and passing on all my wisdom, through her, into our future. Contentment is a state of being and having a healthy body helps.