"He who binds himself to a joy
Doth tile winged life destroy
He who kisses tile joy as it flies
Lives in eternity’s sunrise."
Contentment is perhaps the most underrated aspect of happiness in our culture. Mostly we are conditioned by advertising and society to equate contentment with boredom. From an early age we are inducted in the message that happiness means wanting and getting things. About a week after the destruction of World Trade Center and the loss of nearly three thousand lives, our government and media called upon its citizenry for their help. What they suggested was not to count our blessings, or to realize life’s uncertainty and be more kind to one another, or to diminish our dependence on foreign resources. No, according to the government and advertising media, the most important and patriotic act for us in the face of national tragedy was to purchase products. Spend money. Get back to consuming. We are expected to go along in a nearly robotic buying trance upon which even a large-scale catastrophe should barely impinge.
I don’t see an evil conspiracy on the part of government and corporations. These organizations are comprised simply of people, just folks. But there are number of fallacies under which many of the people in those institutions operate. They assume that wanting more and always being hungry for the next thing is the desirable condition. They are engaged in this assumption, not to pull one over on an unsuspecting public, but because they, too, want more things and are trying to get them. They just happen to be in positions of power that allow them to readily do so by convincing masses of people likewise. It is a pyramid scheme on a large scale. Unfortunately, the players are slow to notice that this is not leading to happiness and that runaway train of consumption is killing much of life on earth. If we were all more content, we would consume less. Contentment therefore becomes one of the most revolutionary acts a person in western culture
can experience. But feeling content goes against all cultural norms and conditioning, and that is why it is so rare.