On Being Content
NOTE: The photographs in this post chronicle my walk through my backyard this afternoon. They really have nothing to do with the story … or do they?
I love the snow. I love being inside, nowhere to go, warm, safe, content. I like being content.
My Ex always got after me for being content. Can you imagine? “You’re always so content with everything!” he’d say, sarcasm and venom dripping from every word.
He craved that “high” of being happy all the time; the rush of “I’m important,” “I’m cool,” “I’ve got neat stuff.” He was always wanting more, and then more was never enough. Always unhappy and never content, he hated me for my contentedness.
My heart ached for him and his discontent. I did my best to soothe his anxious mind, to serve up happiness on a plate or in a compliment or in appreciation to his efforts — however small they might have been. I loved him with everything I had in me. With every broken and torn fiber of my being, I loved him.
But it wasn’t enough, his discontent was too powerful to overcome. And so I would sit with him in his sadness and his sadness would become my sadness. But I’m here to tell you, content and alone is better than together and broken.
Content is good. Content is the Middle Way. Content is the Way that rides the wide line between happy and sad. Happy can be dangerous. When you lose Happy, you get thrown right down deep into the bottom of Sad. Boom! You’re dropped down from a height so high it hurts when you hit.
I like content. It’s peaceful. Content is that slight smile, that warmth of ease. It’s anywhere from a doze in front of the television to a stroll in the park. It’s nice.
Happy is skiing down a double diamond run. It’s all good until you hit a patch of ice and you fall you break a leg.
When you are strolling down the garden path, the most harm you can do is trip and skin a knee.
I like content. Content is Love.
When you are discontent, you rail against What Is. Content is the slow and loving and thoughtful appreciation of What Is.
Content does not mean that you sit back and allow violence or injustice occur. It is not a Do-Nothing state of mind. When you are content and peaceful you are in a better position to act when the need arises. When you are Happy you are almost blind to the rest of the world, you remain unaware of the challenges surrounding you while you are in that blissful state.
I saw a sign on a billboard not long ago, “If you aren’t frightened, you aren’t paying attention.”
I totally disagree. If you aren’t frightened, you probably know a bit about history — history of the world and the history of your own life. If you aren’t frightened, you have the wisdom to know that things tend to go wrong sometimes — and then they go right again.
I read the other day that there are three basics stages in life and you are always in one or the other:
- Orientation. Where life is good, you’re well fed, healthy, you’re fine. And then, BOOM!,
- Disorientation. The shit hits the fan and the bottom falls out of your world. So what do you do, you work towards,
- Reorientation. You work to right the ship and sail back into calm water.
Then you are back to Orientation again … that is, until — well, you know what happens next.
When you are content you can remain open and mindful and calm. You can move to action quickly when you see the need to step in. You can see the train coming and you can avoid it.
The same is true of Sad as is true of Happy. When you are sad you are so involved in the Self that you cannot be aware of the Other.
When you are Content you are sitting beside the Other, hand in hand, in Love, with Love and from Love. Content is the Christ you see within others and the Christ within yourself.
Life cannot be a mountaintop experience every moment of every day. The disciple Peter said, “It is good to be here,” when he spoke of the mountain gathering of saints. Yes, of course it was good. It was miraculous, it was magical, it was all that God is. Peter was pretty excited, to be sure. But God said (in not so many words), “Hey! Settle down, Pete, my man. Listen to what’s going on, listen to Jesus.”
When I went to prayer this morning I was delighted to read one of the Psalms designated for this day, Psalm 131:
O Lord, I am not proud;
I have no haughty looks.
I do not occupy myself with great matters,
or with things that are too hard for me.
But I still my soul and make it quiet,
like a child upon its mother’s breast;
my soul is quieted within me.
O Israel, wait upon the lord,
from this time forth for evermore.