Contentment, by Tzvi Schnee
November 1, 2019
Disclaimer: this blogpost is not about happiness, nor the pursuit thereof. Nor, is the claim made that contentment is something to be sought after. Rather, I concur with Victor Frankl, who wrote that “happiness cannot be pursued; it must ensue” from devotion to something greater than oneself. The same is true of contentment; at least, according to my own personal experience. For whatever it’s worth to relate this to others, I mostly experience contentment upon completing certain meaningful tasks, like finishing a blogpost.
This is apropos of Victor Frankl’s thoughts on finding relevant meaning in the performance of important tasks; this is often neglected in search of an all encompassing meaning in life. “Life ultimately means taking the responsibility to find the right answer to its problems and to fulfill the tasks which it constantly sets for each individual” (Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning).
Yet, one does not necessarily exclude the other; finding an overall purpose in life may also include related tasks that need to be completed. Ultimately, I would posit that dedication to a godly cause greater than oneself would bring a general sense of happiness, while each step along the way, meeting life’s challenges could bring a transient feeling of contentment that signals being on the right path.
For myself, it is as if I’m in tune with a brief feeling of contentment as a reward for small accomplishments. I receive a twinge of contentment after the completion of a task; it’s like an ingrained form of operant conditioning. The potential to continue with certain tasks that will always generate contentment is buttressed by the feeling of contentment itself. Of course, I am treating myself as a guinea pig, by dissecting my experience for a reading audience; yet, perhaps, others can relate to this in a personal way as well.
“Thou hast put gladness in my heart.”
– Psalm 4:8, JPS 1917 Tanach