Recently I was at a rather busy outdoor restaurant with friends waiting to place our order. The waiter came over to our table, poured some water, and asked if we wanted any drinks. When he returned with our beverages he took our food order and asked if there was anything else we needed for now. Likewise, when he returned with our meals, he asked, if there was anything we needed for now. And, throughout the meal, dessert, and check deliveries, he always ended with, “Is there anything else you need for now?”
Several days later, unrelated to the meal or our waiter, I watched the Netflix movie, “Don’t Look Up.” In it there is a scene where family and friends are sitting at the dinner table together and one remarks, “We really did have everything, didn’t we? I mean, when you think about it.”
Both of these experiences got me to thinking about the quest for more of or a better something to make me happy or content. And the more I thought about it, the more I recognize that, for now, for this very moment, I have what I need to do what I’m doing, to be content, and to just be. And perhaps, if I can agree that in just about every moment, when I ask myself if there is anything else I need and I can answer, no, or not really, then in each of those moments, I can be a little more focused, a little more content, and a little more in the moment. Many years ago, a friend gave me a rather far out book to read that espoused that life would be so much easier and less stressful if I could simply change my expectations to preferences. So, yes, I still would like to get new things and improve my living conditions and relationships when I can but if I no longer feel I need to and if I can recognize that, for the moment, I already have what I need, perhaps, just perhaps, life will be even more fulfilling.
When I moved to Delaware in August, I stayed with my daughter and her family for about 5 weeks. During that time, I had only the clothes that could fit in my suitcase and nothing more. As the weeks passed I realized that I didn’t miss any of my “stuff” that surrounded me for the 21 years I lived in my former home. I had all I needed.
It is said that change cannot occur without first having awareness. These recent episodes in my life remind me that I don’t need very much at all. This doesn’t mean that I will remain in my small apartment or that I won’t continue to seek new adventures and friends. Perhaps the change that will occur is knowing that I don’t need any of those things…for now.
Hen chose a great topic and described it well: recognizing contentment ‘for now’. It’s those last two words that make the difference.
My kneejerk response to Hen’s piece, was ‘maybe we were not here to be content’. A darker part of myself actually was saying ‘Are you kidding? We’re clearly not here to be content – what’s this “maybe” stuff?’ We’re here to try hard, miss the mark, scramble to recover, and hopefully survive to move on. Contentment is code for ‘sitting duck’.
Contentment — but, what’s in a word? Wittgenstein famously said that if a lion cold talk, you wouldn’t understand what it said. He felt that words make the reality we experience – simply put: you might understand the logic of the sentence, but not appreciate the individual meaning assigned to the lion’s words.
Okay, in my lexicography, ‘contentment’ is different from serenity. Serenity is a feeling you have while in the flow of doing a task; contentment is the feeling you have when the task is finished. Contentment is the temporary rest stop while enroute to a summit. If you stay there too long, you won’t finish the climb. That’s why the leavening words: “for now”, make all the difference. It recognizes the deep breath you take before setting off again. It is the opportunity to take stock of where you are and say “how beautiful”, knowing you’ll soon be in motion. Walt Whitman has a pertinent poem Song at Sunset, which in part says:
Good in All,
In the satisfaction and aplomb of animals,
In the annual return of the seasons,
In the hilarity of youth,
In the strength and flush of manhood,
In the grandeur and exquisiteness of old age,
In the superb vistas of Death.
Wonderful to depart;
Wonderful to be here!
I used to work with a mechanical engineer whose favorite line was “Bask!” It was a reminder to take a moment to appreciate the progress a team had made on a project. It was always a good reset before resuming the journey – he was a wise person. So Hen, I agree: Bask – for now!
Two Little Words
Two little words, six little letters…..FOR NOW! This diminutive statement carries the weight of the world on those two- 3 letter words’ shoulders! How is that possible? I have been ruminating on this idea since Henry brought it up. What is implied? For Now implies change, usually forward change since the the last Now is gone. For Now questions it’s own life span- when is this Now over and the next Now begins? If NOW is static like with a pandemic or something NOW could last a very long time. How do we know when this NOW is over and the next NOW is arriving? The optimist looks forward to the next NOW assuming improvement or betterment. The pessimist fears the next NOW cause history has told him things can get much worse. Not to mention all the factors involved in creating NOW. Factors such as current events, weather factors, one’s own humanity and outlook. Do all those things change at the end of one NOW into the next? And how many of those factors have to change to label the quality of the next NOW?
Now throw in the concept of “contentment.” Contentment is one of those emotions that fits somewhere on the Ladder of Happiness. I suspect it is a high rung of that ladder right below joy and peace. Lower rungs include comfort, amusement, ease, pleasure, higher up come satisfaction, with happiness and possibly euphoria just below the ultimate rung of peace and serenity-the absolute top!
We all strive for those top rungs. Some of the rungs are phantomlike. A feeling lasting only short moments in NOW. They are like the bouquets of flowers in a beautiful garden on a beautiful day. They boost the spirit and make the Now special but rarely last long. Happiness is one of those feelings. We experience moments of true happiness and it enriches us beyond belief but seldom lasts for great lengths of time like peace and serenity do. And euphoria is just a short sharp blast of bliss too soon gone to even remember how it felt….. but peace and serenity …… they last from this Now to the next and help us get through the subsequent Nows that lay ahead.
My final point right now is that For Now I am truly struggling. Struggling with the loneliness, the worry for friends’ and family’s health and the fear of normal never returning. Throw in a little anger for those who have decided their right to do what they want with their bodies supersedes our expectations for this pandemic to end. So for now, my For Now is strangling me. Sure glad the waiter didn’t ask me!