A quick search of Flickr for photos related to contentment reveals a plethora of pictures containing cats and babies. (Don’t believe me? See for yourself by clicking here.) There were a few adults mixed in. Cups of coffee, pints of beer, dogs and natural landscapes were also prevalent.
While I had hoped that the Flickr search would yield a photo for this post, in the end the search results were rather illustrative of the fact that we humans, as a whole, aren’t very content. Unlike cats, which if Flickr is any indicator, we are not content most of the time. There are moments of contentment to be sure. Snuggling with a lover, sipping a warm cup of coffee while watching the sun set, enjoying a meal that is better than expected with good friends––these are moments in which we are content. Moments in which time seems to stand still, the world seems to stop, and we can just be in the moment.
Yet, these moments are fleeting. They are fleeting because they are just that––a moment. They don’t last because they aren’t eternal. They are momentary. Finite. Flick[e]r-ing.1
As a realist––Crystal likes to refer to me as a pessimist2––who struggles with finding joy and contentment in many of the moments of life, I’ve been trying to be more contented as of late. (Struggling may be a more apt description of the process.) To that end, I’ve endeavored to:
- Sip my coffee and savor each warm, delicious mouthful rather than gulping it in hopes of getting the caffeine from the cup to my bloodstream as quickly as possible.
- Slow down when it comes to food. This has meant slowing down both in terms of preparing the food and consuming the food. We eat virtually nothing that has been already prepared and comes conveniently packaged in a neat box. We make things (cakes, risottos, sauces) from scratch. And when we sit around the table, I try to chew each bite slowly before swallowing. I try to talk with those whom I eating with––making eye contact, talking about our days, and what we are looking forward to on the horizon.
- Finding things to be thankful for rather than things to complain about. Last night, I joined our youth for a game of volleyball. My feet became to sweaty, so I had to remove my flip-flops. I could have complained about the sweat or having to remove my shoes or playing on the stones in my bare feet; but really it was enjoyable. There was laughter and taunting. The grass (what little of it there was) felt rather glorious on my bare skin, as it slipped between my toes. That game of volleyball was followed by sitting around a fire on a cool summer’s eve, talking with friends, laughing and telling stories.
- Then, there is today. I’m tired. Our children, however, are restless. They
wantneed out of the house. I’d rather sit. But it is a beautiful day––the sun is shining and its warm. Quinton’s first day of kindergarten is just around the corner. So going to look at fish and enjoying whatever adventure we end up on as a family sounds like a pretty epic and enjoyable journey if you ask me. Oh yeah, we’re going to cap off the day with that movie Epic.
Here’s the thing… I hate fake positivity and the false proclamations of being ‘okay’ just as much as the next person.
Contentment isn’t about glossing over or pretending that the bad, uncomfortable, or difficult things of life don’t exist. It isn’t about that at all. Instead, contentment is about learning to be present in the moment to those who are around us; present to the possibilities and potentialities of that which is unfolding and being experienced right now. Contentment begins with being fully present and it continues as we soak in that moment with gratefulness, thankful for all that it is.
Oh yeah… About that picture that I was hoping to add at the beginning of this post. Flickr has nothing on you. Take a moment––one of those beautiful, awesome moments that you are grateful to enjoy today––and take a picture of it. Capture it before it flickers and fades away and send me a picture. Email it. Tweet it (just mention me @joshrhone in your tweet). Facebook it. Leave it in the comments. I’d love to see where you are finding contentment and in the days ahead I’d love to share your moments of contentment with others. The only condition is that you must keep it clean.