I look for her among the ruins of this fading city, but she is not there. In the dreams of days to come and the memories of times past; but in those old books she will not be found. In the childhood fairytales I weave from my imagination – fairytales of love, and prosperity, and happily-ever-after – but there she eludes me.
Surely she is our goal, step by step up this mountain, the pinnacle for our existence and striving, to dwell under the roof of Contentment? Yet I cannot find her here, wherever I search or in whatever I do on this Earth.
Not in the metropolitan monuments of our making, nor in the forests of our romances. Neither in the caves of gold carved in our attics, nor the plunders of our long-fought wars.
Contentment, found in this world, fled to the winds in ages past. Upon the pilgrimage to find her here, in the flesh, I found nothing. This was all – simply clutching at the breeze in some vain hope of catching her passing. To look for Contentment found in things here is a hopeless attempt at crystalising the air that rushes past.
Our romances, who promise shelter from discontent, when becoming our sole desire always produce fresh tragedies to haunt our sickening hearts. Financial gain, though promising a life of security and pleasured bliss, will leave the hungry heart starving for more, gain upon gain but losing all. For every shekel you lay hold of, there are a million more that the mind will want and the heart will never get; for every love in paradise, a fallen god that can never truly give you all.
Contentment, as she has come to be known, is this: the promise of something more that can never be acquired; the pinnacle of a mountain that can never be climbed. Our schools, our politicians; they tell us one thing, one thing above all: work, strive, toil; only then will you be contented, searching for bliss that cannot be found.
The great tragedy of seeking Contentment is that she always leaves us discontent.
But there is another way.
Contentment comes to those who take hold of what they have, and see that it cannot satisfy, not in itself. For what can be gained from having the whole world, yet at a loss to all in it? When you have food on the table and shelter over your head, what more can be said than that you are a great deal more privileged than the crying billions in our backyard global neighbourhood?
I believe that true contentment doesn’t come to those who work their whole lives to gain everything and lose it all. It comes to those, who, in taking arms with what they have, learn to love with all they’ve got, all they’ve been given. You can gain the world, and lose love itself; you can lose all you’ve got, yet, in loving, have everything you need. Contentment.
True contentment is found in that place of vulnerability, in love. And true love, friend, will always produce something like discontent.
But this is not a bad discontent. No, rather, this is a holy discontent. A wholesome longing. Finding contentment with the little you’ve been given, and, in looking out, longing to use it for good, for love, not gain. In seeing the orphan, to provide a home; to the beggar, shelter; to the thief, forgiveness. To the unloved, love; to the poor, a friend.
You have in your hands the materials for Contentment, and she wants to make a home in your heart. And when you let her in, she will produce in you something new. A holy discontent. A commission to draw up arms in a good fight.
To gain the world is to lose everything. To gain Contentment, is to hold loosely what little you have, but find all you need. A place where love is found in a dark dying world, and a light that can defeat it. And we, friends and family, can take up these burning brands and make the bleeding darkness a little less dark.