Saturday, January 19, 2013



ON CONTENTMENT   -  archives

Nothing like gazing upon your own well-stacked cords of firewood turning golden in the evening sun to get you feeling contented, and then in that contentment set you to thinking about contentment itself and how it arises, where it goes and what it is exactly, what is it made of, is it part of you or is it more like a shaft of sunlight warming a patch of earth? Firewood, another form of light, serves in so many ways...

That thought always leads to a line from the Tao Te Ching that glows with the light of the truth that cannot be pinned down, that shimmers in the mind’s eye: "There is no disaster greater than not being content."

Being content? Mere contentment? What does contentment have to do with disaster? Lao Tzu knew, and passes along the intimation, that contentment is the beginning of all that is worthy, it is the seed and germ of every happiness, its absence accordingly the tiny breach that ruptures into every disaster, the pinhole in the dam, the lost horseshoe nail. Contentment is all the rest: pride in the way of one's life and the fruit of it, whether one is shepherd or chieftain, a fact that hasn't changed since back in the tribal days when miracles were everywhere, and no museums yet needed to remind us of what is gone.

Contentment is the core of all that truly matters. It is the root of passion, the heights of honesty, the beating heart of every joy, the embrace of a family. There is no self in contentment; it is other-centered. The self-centered, in contrast, is perturbed, discordant, writhes with discontent and seeks release at every turn (insert the 'seven cardinal sins' here, for starters).

And where there is no contentment, deception is essential, falsehood is opportune, theft is advantageous, and enmity is natural. No one knew this better than the Chinese of Lao Tzu's time, who had seen it all for millennia, from battle and rapine to disease and famine, and knew well the silent, dry seed of the whirlwind that springs from the ash of contentment...


2 comments:

rshelfer said...

Something you might find amusing -- "Images of the Floating World", digitized from Coconino's collection of Japanese Ukiyo-e illustration albums.

http://www.coconino.fr/sites_auteurs/coco-edo/index.html

Sandy miller said...

Contentment always seemed to be something that could not be held or passed around. It was yours if you wanted it and sometimes worked for it or even dare say invested in it.

I think of Lao T'zu every time I belly out a pot on the wheel....... it is the emptiness that makes it useful. I make big bellies.......

Stacked the woodpile on Saturday.