Home » meditations » Happiness vs. Contentment

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”