Happiness vs. Contentment

Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Happiness is a lasting state which does not seem to be made for man in this world. Everything here on earth is in a continual flux which allows nothing to assume any constant form. All things change round about us, we ourselves change, and no one can be sure of loving tomorrow what he loves today. All our plans of happiness in this life are therefore empty dreams. Let us make the most of peace of mind when it comes to us, taking care to do nothing to drive it away, but not making plans to hold it fast, since such plans are sheer folly. I have seen few if any happy people, but I have seen many who were contented, and of all the sights that have come my way this is the one that has left me the most contented myself. I think this is a natural consequence of the influence of my sensations on my inward feelings. Happiness cannot be detected by any outward sign and to recognize it one would need to be able to read in the happy person’s heart, but contentment is visible in the eyes, the bearing, the voice and the walk, and it seems to communicate itself to the onlooker. Is there any satisfaction more sweet than to see a whole people devoting themselves to joy on some feast-day and all their hearts expanding in the supreme rays of pleasure which sign briefly but intensely through the clouds of life?—Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Reveries of the Solitary Walker, “Ninth Walk”

On Hungarian Time

Hungarian Cowboy, or Csikos, on the Hortobagy

This weekend was spent attending two Hungarian events: A Los Angeles Hungarian Meetup Group get-together at Mishi’s Strudel Shop in San Pedro and the Fall Bazaar of the First Hungarian Reformed Church in Hawthorne.

It was interesting to spend a weekend on Hungarian time. At the strudel shop, Martine and I were there on time (at 2 pm), but no one else was. At the church, the bazaar was to begin at 1 pm. We got there fifteen minutes early, and found the place was full because everything started much earlier than the posted time, perhaps by as much as an hour. (And it ended an hour and a quarter early, too.)

I am usually fanatical about being not only on time, but a little early, for everything. It was strange to be outdone in this regard by my fellow Magyars.

Fortunately, it didn’t matter. We just took our seats and enjoyed ourselves immensely through the dinner and musical program. There were two opera singers—Sándor László and Huba Marcsi—singing old Hungarian folk songs to be piano accompaniment. This was followed by a singalong led by Dr. Tai Chen of other old folk songs based on music passed out to everyone. (My Hungarian, being sub par, made it difficult for me to participate.)

There was also a number of rousing folk dances by the Kárpátok Hungarian Dance Ensemble, whose flawless execution of a series of stunning and complicated maneuvers is always a crowd pleaser. I see tthem at least twice a year and find their work to be exhilarating.

It was such a good weekend that I feel like manhandling a bunch of horses like the csikos in the above photo, which comes from Flickriver.