Thursday, January 03, 2008


For the past week I have thought a lot about contentment, being content. For the most part I am content, but every once in a while I fall prey to some media form that displays so much more than I have and those nagging thoughts of, "Oh I would love to have a tub like that to soak in" or "that room looks so put together, makes mine seem kinda shabby" (not meaning shabby as in shabby chic ) These thoughts might have come from seeing a magazine, or a television show on decorating or shopping in a store and of course there is the computer to show us so many things we don't have. Fortunately for me, these moods never last long and I can usually shake them away pretty fast. I have no desire to make my life one of a long "wish list" filled with discontent thoughts, because the truth is, no matter what you have, someone has even bigger and better things for you to covet. And in the end of things, what you owned is nothing, worthless to you compared to how you lived and who you touched with kindness.
I thought this week about folks that lived out in the country back 150 years or so. No television, no radio, no easy travel, only a few big homes to covet and the ordinary person never saw the insides to compare to their home. A few catalogs, but no credit cards to use quickly without giving thought to what you were doing or relating to the fact that at some point they have to be paid. You had books to read, with descriptions of fine homes, but usually the moral of the story with a big house was that the little country mouse was much happier with their simple life.
I suspect it was easier to be content with what you had. In the Little House on The Prairie television series, the Olsen's had fine things, but it was clear that things didn't make for a happy home.
I know first hand what life is like without a T.V. fancy story books, glossy magazines, shopping in malls and no Internet. So I can compare both ways. At this time in life I can watch what is happening to a group of plain people that have allowed Internet, movies and shopping extraordinaire into their group and I can see the changes in them. The hunt for more material goods is replacing good deeds, helping hands, happy homes, contentment and yes, it appears to many that a longing for the things of God are being replaced by the longing for more things. The keeping up with the Jones mentality is reigning supreme within the group. Spiritual talk is replaced with fancy car talk and bigger house talk. Children are not as well mannered, and dress like anyone else. Young people are drinking and partying. At this rate in 10 years they will be just like anyone else and you will have never known they were plain people.
If I were to be 100% honest with myself, I know its easier, less complicated and certainly life is more content when we remove ourselves from the bombardment of "you need to own this or that to be with it". Contentment comes at a cost, living simply, content without all the "must haves" we just don't measure up in some folks minds, maybe even to our families. It takes strength to be content with the simple things. Strength to stay true to conviction, to swim against the current and to stay away from coveting.


Chocokitty said...

I think it can go both ways - it's very easy to romanticize the "olden days," but sometimes it is easier to be generous when you aren't scraping by.

For example, my ancestors were hard-scrabble, poor farmers who weren't the loving people depicted in Little House on the Prairie. I know that that they were bitter, angry, HARD people who were more concerned with feeding the family than in nurturing others.

In contrast, my own financial success has not insulated me from the tribulations of those less off: we donate a large percentage of our wealth to charity and do a great deal of volunteer work.

Say what you will regarding the ability of modern conveniences to spoil us and make us soft, I'd still rather live today with modern medicine and building techniques than in the 1800s or prior.

Patty said...

Chocokitty, once again we are looking at life very differently. I remember your past comment well.
Our worlds are probably very different. You should start a blog of your own, with your own point of view that you share with others.
If you read carefully I have stated more than once on my blog, its not a going back in time that we need, but a readjustment to our present attitude, where so much stress and unhappiness reigns.

Ruth said...

I was visiting a nursing home this morning and saw this quote from Oprah Winfrey posted in the elevator.

"Be thankful for what you have; you'll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don't have, you will never, ever have enough."

Are culture is plagued by advertising and marketing trying to convince us that we need more things to make us happy.

Carole said...

I must say this is one of the reasons we don't watch TV. We own one because it was my husband's before we got married, but we mostly watch DVDs and a few educational programs, and our daughters watch cartoons from noon to one, and sometimes documentaries about wildlife. We are happy to live in our modern era, but we use technology to our best interest and think about the impact it has on our culture, education and the environment. And I must say it often clashes with the so-called needs that society wants to impose on us !

Cyber_Hippie said...

We're similar to Carole and her family. We own (2) TVs (boyfriend brought his when he moved in,) but we only use one of them, and that's just for viewing DVDs/VHS tapes of our choosing. I get my news online.

We are trying to drop out a little bit and simplify and just get back to what was once GOOD in our society. We try to lead by example, but you're right: Some people just look down on us. Forutnately, neither of us cares, and we enjoy our life.


mikesgirl said...

DH and I are fortunate in the respect that we are able to compare firsthand two completely different lifestyles. When we are in WA, in our "regular" life, I enjoy things, but discontent does creep in, when I see something on TV or the internet that I can't live without. Oh, I'm sure my life will be so much better with it, whatever it may be. But when we are at our cabin, with no power, TV, internet, phone etc., our relationship with each other and with our wonderful friends and neighbors out there, 40 miles from even the closest country store, becomes our focus in life. We really live the life we strive to live, respecting nature and life, recycling, taking time to appreciate, cooking simple natural food, loving - staying home, only going to town a couple times a month. Now you tell me, which life is better?

Bren said...

Hmmm. I am maybe missing something. I got something totally different from your post than anyone else. What I got was pretty much what Paul said. My paraphrase,... "I have had little and I have had much, and I have learned to be content in whatever state I am in." Probably because he is not concentrating on what he has or doesn't have and his focus is on things above.
I think the Ingalls would have been just as happy if they had all that the Oleson's was not their state of wealth/poverty, it was their state of mind.

Cathy said...

Your blog entry is one of my favorite subjects.
Being content and living a simple life has taught me so much....
Simple living has taught me I don't need to go with the flow just beacause the world is!!
Happiness comes from savoring the things we NEED, not from possesing all the things we WANT!!
I want to strive to impress people with my life, not with my things.
~~ Thank you for sharing your heart with us ~~
Blessings to you,

mikesgirl said...

Lots of interesting comments on this post Patty!

Chocokitty said...

>I think the Ingalls would have been just as happy if they had all that the Oleson's was not their state of wealth/poverty, it was their state of mind.<

My point precisely.

Michelle-ozark crafter said...

You know what they say. Real contentment is loving what you have, not having what you love. Think about that one for a minute. LOL! I too am mostly content in my little home with my things but sometimes I think that if I only had this or that. Or I think, wouldn't it be nice to go out and buy tons of craft stuff instead of having to plan and save for it? But no, I wouldn't change any of it. I love my life as it is and the simple pleasure of it and the joy of getting some little thing that only comes when you have to save and plan for it. it means a lot more to me than if I could just buy whatever I want at any time.

Patty said...

If that is the case Chocokitty, your family that you write of being hard and not nurturing would not have been happy even if had they been loaded with money

pomo housewife said...

Its strange, what makes people who they are - I've seen people from the same loving family go in completely opposite directions: one happily married and working, the other off the rails, in trouble with the law. I've wondered what it is in their personality that has taken a similar set of experiences and reacted to it so very differently.

I think it's valid to sound a note of caution about nostalgia for the past or for other cultures - it is so easy to misinterpret them.

THat said, I think your message is a very true one. Advertising creates dissatisfaction and sells us the solution in the same moment. Now every form of media is all about selling, and they suck up everything in their path: even simplicity can be bought, along with the enamel kitchenware or Zen styled furniture.

mikesgirl said...

I feel like I can intelligently comment on this as we have a foot in both worlds, as I explained in my earlier post. We have the same mind set in both homes, but when we're in Montana and living simply, we have the TIME to appreciate the little things. We aren't cluttered up with technology or racing here or there. I think it is much more than a mind set - it's really very lovely to live without all the "stuff". It really does get in the way of enjoying life. I don't say it as eloquently as Patty, but I feel it as passionately. No, being "poor" doesn't make you happy, but not complicating your life with a lot of stuff and demands on your time, leaves space, - emotional, physical, and spiritual, - for what really matters and that feels really good.

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