Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Don't Worry, Be...Content

Back in 1988, it seemed a person couldn't go anywhere to escape hearing the song, "Don't Worry, Be Happy" by Bobby McFerrin. Deejays played it constantly and, even years later, it kept popping up in a variety of ad campaigns. While the song is certainly light and lyrical, there's one aspect of it that sort of bothers me -- the message!

I don't know about you, but I really think the emotion of happiness is greatly overrated. This ideal causes many people to feel down on themselves because, at any given moment, they discover they aren't happy. Discovering that you aren't happy, when you're told by society that you SHOULD be, only makes a person more unhappy than they were to start with! Talk about a double whammy!

Another problem with happiness is that it tends to produce smiles. Now I'm not suggesting that a smile here and there is a bad thing -- far from it. However, being continuously happy necessitates maintaining a smile for long periods of time. From a physical standpoint, keeping a smile plastered on one's face places a lot of stress on the facial muscles. In time, those muscles will encounter fatigue which will cause the corners of one's mouth to droop and, thereby, will turn into a frown. A frown is a sure sign of unhappiness and, as discussed above, we already know what society thinks about that!

Another problem with happiness is that it only holds meaning in light of its opposite. Consequently, the truly happy person must concurrently be a truly unhappy person. It's sort of like living on a wild roller coaster. You go surging upward (happy) to be followed by plunging downward (unhappy) and you follow this same track over and over again.

If a Taoist had written a similar song, it would be entitled, "Don't Worry, Be Content". Contentment is not synonymous with happiness. In fact, in my view, it represents the middle ground between happiness and unhappiness. It encompasses embracing the wonders of this life, while not fretting over what's beyond one's control.

In essence, the content person goes with the flow and enjoys the ride, wherever it may lead.


  1. Christians are along the same line of thinking on this point. We don't claim that Christianity means being happy all the time, in fact, the Bible explicitly states that Christians will experience storms and trials especially because they are Christian. However, we would probably be more apt to replace the word content with joy. This is not the typical definition of joy but a sort of eternal contentment with knowing that no matter what happens, it happens for a reason.

  2. Hi, this makes a lot of sense. Great idea!

  3. Not just a great idea: it is truth.
    Anyone who has attained enlightenment has found this truth.
    Happy is a consolation prize.
    Calm balance is the real McCoy.


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