Our time and attention are all we have and it is our personal responsibility and choice as to how we apply them. Many people spend their time chasing after life and happiness, and others fleeing from death and sorrow and yet still others bounce incessantly between a chase and a flight. All of these people are too busy for contentment. Some people spend their lives desperately grasping after things they don’t have and equally clinging desperately to those things which they believe they do have.
Those pursuits are not futile; they do give these people goals and purpose to their activities, and their productivity provides a social benefit by creating items of commerce which other people can use. These desperate people are vital members of society, and because they know they are valuable to other people they take pride in their personal contributions and feel happy with themselves. Their happiness is a wonderful thing for them and makes their lives meaningful and also it provides a livelihood for themselves and their families.
Happiness exists in a state of flow, and requires an effort to maintain it, because it is a conditional state of moving towards an improved one. The instant the effort is abated the happiness slacks off too. This can be perceived as a diminution of happiness, and so the person returns to their task in an effort to return to their previous level of happiness. It is an expansive behavior.
The flip side of happiness is sorrow and it also requires an effort to alleviate its symptoms, which is an effort to diminish that unpleasant feeling. This type of effort is just as much work as productive positive work but it is contractive and protective work, and it is a grasping kind of effort which produces nothing of external social value. You can’t sell internalized pain because people don’t want pain and sorrow they want pleasure and happiness.
Contentment is a different dimension. It isn’t striving to acquire something or reject anything either; it is the wholehearted acceptance of things as they are. The strange thing about contentment is that it is available at all times. You don’t have to be succeeding at something to be contented with things being just as they presently exist. Of course things can be in process of their own accord, like a river can be flowing freely or flowing through a dam and creating power, but you don’t have to do anything to appreciate it doing what it’s doing. You can be perfectly content watching the dam create power, or watching a wall of tsunami water sweep over your home town. It is all in the acceptance of the world being as it is. This isn’t Panglossian, because it doesn’t accept this present world as being the best of all possible worlds — we can be quite purposeful in working for a better world — but it does grant oneself the emotional contentment of accepting reality for what it is.
This is our world and it is fantastic.