Almost everyone I talk with these days, young or old, all express a desire to find something they feel is elusive and unobtainable. Contentment. Contentment is defined as the neuro-physiological experience of satisfaction and being at ease in one’s situation, bodymind (cf. John Money), body, and/or mind.
The Historical Philosophy of Contentment or Complacency
Some of the earliest references to the state of contentment are found in the reference to the middah (personal attribute) of Samayach B’Chelko. The expression comes from the word samayach (root Sin-Mem-Chet) meaning “happiness, joy or contentment”, and chelko (root Chet-Lamed-Kuf) meaning “portion, lot, or piece”, and combined mean contentment with one’s lot in life. The attribute is referred to in the Mishnahic source which says
The origins of contentment in Jewish culture reflect an even older thinking reflected in the Book of Proverbs which says,
In a Buddhist sense, it is the freedom from anxiety, want or need. Contentment is the goal behind all goals because once achieved there is nothing to seek until it is lost. A living system cannot maintain contentment for very long as complete balance and harmony of forces means death. Living systems are a complex dance of forces which find a stability far from balance. Any attainment of balance is quickly met by rising pain which ends the momentary experience of satisfaction or contentment achieved. Buddha‘s task was to find the solution to this never ending descent into dissatisfaction or Dukkha. The Buddhist faith is based on the belief that he succeeded.
Most religions have some form of eternal bliss or heaven as their apparent goal often contrasted with eternal torment or dis-satisfactions. The source of all mentally created dis-satisfactions appears to stem from the ability to compare and contrast experiences and find reality as one is living it to be less than ideal. The solution is to seek out ways to either make experienced reality conform to the ideal or to lower expectations to the level of the experienced. When one can live in the moment with expectations in harmony with experiences one has achieved the greatest mental contentment possible. Variants of this pursuit are found in all religions and manifest in many forms of meditation and prayerful devotions.
The American philosopher, Robert Bruce Raup wrote a book Complacency:The Foundation of Human Behavior (1925) in which he claimed that the human need for complacency (i.e. inner tranquility) was the hidden spring of human behavior. Dr. Raup made this the basis of his pedagogical theory, which he later used in his severe criticisms of the American Education system of the 1930s.
Personally, I think the real comtemporary issues preventing us from experiencing even a few moments of satisfaction relate to the fact we have been programmed to think we need too many things. this gadget, these clothes, this house, etc. The drive for “these things” has created two issues as I see it. One is that those who can get it, get it and those who are in a position not to get it, don’t and their chances lessen each time those who can get it, get it.
Why don’t we all just ask ourselves one question. “What do I really need?” I know from personal experience that as soon as I did that life got a lot more simple. When life gets more simple, satisfaction has a chance to bloom. Therefore assessing REAL needs can create simplicity and simplicity is the garden where satisfaction can grow. Just a thought I felt like sharing with you.