Not happy, just content. Of all the daft ideas to appear out of the blue is one called a happiness index. As if we can put a number on what our happiness might be. Even for the mathematically minded this is just so naff, weird even. It maybe asking too much, maybe simply impossible, to delve into all those intricate bits of one’s life to realise whether one is happy or not; and here I am not thinking about moments or hours or even days but in the generality of life.
So that is why I start by thinking about contentment. Of course these two states are very closely related and in many ways may seem to be interchangeable yet the differences are there once we start to seek some better understanding.
If we ask anyone if they are happy then their response is almost certainly based on how they feel at that time. Yesterday or tomorrow they may well feel diffently. Happiness is more a state of mind than any actualité; it can fluctuate easily and quickly; in the main it is not in a person’s complete control. Others can easily generate a feeling of happiness for another to experience; just as easily they can destroy it.
Contentment is more settled. It is a conglomeration of so much of our lives and much that is rarely thought about. So we all have ups and downs in our lives yet we can be content overall. It is not simply an emotion, much more a personal, general satisfaction with who we are, where we are and what we have around us.
This is no way implies a sedentary state of mind; far from it. When we are content then we are able more easily to let our thoughts roam and in doing so we may achieve unexpected results, even greater contentment. So I ask the question now because we are in an ever changing world, good and bad, and where life seems to be speeding up.
Much conversation now includes the use of 24/7 instead of days and hours. The impression is that we are, or ought to be, fully occupied. Why? Everyone else is, so it seems. Is that the new reality?
But hang on this planet is still orbiting the sun for the same yearly time and our 24 hour ‘day’ is still the same. We regulate our days using the same clocks. It is impossible to be in two places at the same time. There never was a time when we did absolutely nothing, but maybe we did have less to do in past decades.
That less to do is deceptive. What we did have was more time to get things done properly; we could consider what we were doing and how best to do it. There was a certain satisfaction in a job well done rather than getting a job finished in the nick of time.
Of course there were times and jobs when we needed to get a move on and there were deadlines (not only for the press). The important point is that many of the mistakes we come across today would not have arisen back then.
So does that mean I am yearning for the old days? Not at all. The progress we see in every field of endeavour, even those that we are not especially pleased to see, has made our lives immeasurably better . Have all the changes made me happy or happier?
Now this is where I do stop to think. I do not need an index to measure happiness today against, say, 50 years ago. I can say that all those years ago I was not content, but today it is much easier to realise that I am content (and occasionally even happy).