Happy or Content?

On my way home this evening I found myself asking a significant but oft overlooked question. The question is this; “Do I want to be happy or will I be satisfied with being content?” The reason I think this question is often overlooked is because most people associate the two things together. Most folks, in my wealth of experience satisfy themselves with one and assume it fulfills the other. This is to say most people affiliate being content with their existence equates to their being happy with their lives.

In light of this evening’s rather odd revelations I have to kindly disagree. As I was walking home this evening this question struck me in a rather odd fashion. I walked past a clearly comfortable home and saw an animal, presumably a black collie, laying quite contentedly on the hardwood floor sleeping. At the time I thought to myself “I wish I were as content as thought pup.” However, soon after I realized I didn’t actually wish I was as happy as that pup. In fact I am as happy as that pup. I lead a relatively healthy life, sleep in a warm comfortable place with familiar and non-threatening surroundings. Call me cynical all you want but this is how I qualify contentment. My internal statement about the contentment of that pup made me ask myself if I was content, and when I decided I was I asked myself if I was happy. When I decided I wasn’t happy I asked myself well what the hell is the difference.

At this point I have no answer because to be honest I have found myself quite happy any number of times within the bounds of my current circumstances. However on looking back I realize the happiness was merely fleeting during my times of contentment. I was happy while I was dating certain people because they brought me joy. I was happy while I was working on certain projects because they brought me joy. No matter though, during every case I found my happiness and joy to be fleeting.

This of course brought me to the academic question: what would make me truly happy with my life and existence. Asking myself this question made me realize that during each period of happiness there was something sustaining the rest of my being. This leads me to believe that if I combine the experiences I can find what would bring me real and lasting happiness rather than simple periodic contentment.

  • Interesting and hence challenging work
  • Honest and lasting friendships
  • Challenging and complementary female companionship
  • Fulfilling though perhaps standard sex life

Each of these things have in turn brought me a great amount of joy but rarely have I had more than two occurring simultaneously. Presumably I would need all four of these things to be truly happy though I can honestly say I don’t expect I’ll ever know for sure. Perhaps that is a commentary on how I expect my life to play out but I take no shame in it. I don’t expect many people ever achieve real true happiness.