Monday, July 03, 2006


We need to talk about contentment, there's so much of it now.

Contentment means, essentially, "I want to be where - well how about that? - just exactly where I am." You want to be who you are. If you are a pundit, you say it's right to do the kind of things that you do yourself.

In our world you're meant to be positive, (this is called accepting yourself) so it's rare for people to credit a proposition that would imply they were discontented. Discontentment is really unacceptable.

This is a polite example about guitarists, because I think an example helps. (I'm not really interested in guitarists, though.)

If a guitarist announces that guitarists should pay great attention to scale exercises, then you can bet that this is someone who has done exactly that. "All that hard work pays off in the end," - You don't say that if you never bothered with it. But if you've done the hard work yourself, you're almost compelled to say it. Otherwise it might be that you'd wasted your time, and this would also mean being discontented, not wanting to be exactly who you are.

It's not exactly irrational. Belief and act grow together. You have a kind of aptitude for nimble, methodical fingering, for the patient perfecting of awkward transitions. You want to do this kind of work because you believe it's worthwhile, and believing it makes the work easier, in fact you want to believe it because it helps you do it, and afterwards you want to believe it even more because then you're glad you've done it.

If you are a guitarist who never bothered to learn the lute, you probably wouldn't be at all impressed by some lutenist saying that the lute repertoire was fundamental to being able to play the guitar repertoire. Or suppose you never learned any flamenco moves, or you didn't spend ten years on the road, or study with a master, or make your own instrument, or teach classes ... after all, chances are, you didn't learn the lute or the flamenco flourish because you weren't interested enough. And guess what, therefore you think it's no big deal to be interested. Or more politely, that you have reservations about whether it's essential in every case. There's more than one way to skin a cat, you shrug.

We face discontentment when we're younger. There's things we're not allowed to do, there's people who won't have sex with us or who are always putting us down, and we cry out like pop songs in total anguish, we key parked cars and we slam phones against walls; they make films about people like us. Discontentment sells when it's presented in a frame. In life it is disadvantageous. We mostly survive by becoming content about more and more things, because otherwise we can't think straight, and discontent loses its novelty and its heroism, it just stops us doing things properly, we can't work, we can't relax, we can't sleep. But being for the most part content we express our ideas and our opinions, we assert and defend them rationally and not by breaking things, but where do these opinions come from? They are the solidified residue of emotion, they are what we found it necessary to think in order to arrive at our state of contentment and to discover in tranquillity the arguments that would support them.



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