Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Finding Contentment in the Modern World

Recently I made a trip to visit my family in Iowa.  I stayed for a few days with my sister and brother-in-law and their two children.  My brother-in-law, Rich, and I always have some great conversations.  Rich is a very talented musician and a piano tuner who has a very strong reputation in the music industry.  (he's tuned for such notables as Ben Folds, Jack White and Lori Line: she wanted him to go on tour with her)

Rich spoke to me of how he was impressed with how I'm able to seemingly be content in all situations.  How I seem to be at ease at all times.  Rich, himself, is not.  He's a very nervous and worrisome person.  I think he's right about that, though, I am often very content.  It's something that comes easy to me.

I believe firmly in keeping life simple, to not surround yourself with too many burdens or too much drama. I think this is where my contentment comes from, my belief in the simple.  Desire, of course, is fine and not to be discouraged, it can keep us moving forward.  But at what cost?  Far too often, I feel, we are driven by desire, and thus we have no control over ourselves.  It's our desire that is in control.  The late Serbian author Danilo Kis (sp?) once said, "When you hit the bullseye you miss the rest of the target."  I think that quote speaks to my contentment.  I understand that the rest of the target still has value.  (indeed the bullseye isn't even the space with the highest point total on a dart board!)

If we could only find value in everything, for there is value in everything, and more importantly, in the simple things, then I think everyone would find much more contentment in their lives.  And what I've found is that once I'm filled with contentment, and I'm truly at peace with myself, then all of the other aspects of my life become more beautiful, more important.  Somewhere in the Bible (imagine me quoting the Bible!) someone asks "What are the most important things in life?" and I don't know for sure, but it's probably Jesus, says "The things you cannot see."  That is contentment.  Knowing that and understanding that and eventually living that.

Health or reputation: which is held dearer?
Health of possessions: which has more worth?
Profit or loss: which is more troublesome?

Great love incurs great expense,
And great wealth incurs great fear,
But contentment comes at no cost.
For who knows when to stop
Does not continue into danger,
And so may long endure.

(from the Tao Te Ching)

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