On Comparisons and Contentment

Photo Credit: Islamic Sunrays

Photo Credit: Islamic Sunrays

Our society is driven by comparison.  How do I know if my dinner is a good deal?  By checking the price of other restaurants.  How do I know my child is getting the best education?  Check what other schools are doing.  How do you know you’re in the right relationship?

For the most part, it’s rather effective.  After all, we all know that a $6 corn dog is absolutely ludicrous, as we can get a bundle of them for a fraction of the price at our local grocery store (however, it’s freakin Disneyland.  It doesn’t matter what price you put on it—it’s supposedly magic nonetheless). Comparisons allow us to see if we’re being effective with our time.  It helps us make logical choices and cut what isn’t needed in life.

But can all things be compared?  Despite efficiency, is comparing the right thing to do?

Often times, when we wonder if the relationship we’re in is a good one, we compare what we have to others.  Is that the right way to go about it?  When we are discontented with the job we’re in, we look at what others are doing.  Is that a good way to go about it?

To put it simple, my view is no.  We often get so caught up in what others are doing to be “effective” that we lose sight of what we have.  Even if the grass on the other side is greener doesn’t mean that our lawn is bad.  Just because my friends are wonderfully in love (on the outside) doesn’t mean that my relationship is defeated.

Deeply embedded in our condition is our desire to compare ourselves to whatever else is out there—especially in a consumerist society.  However, sometimes we really need to slow down and see things from a grander perspective.  Getting the A isn’t always necessary for every path in life.  Sometimes, “success” is merely being content with what you have—and there’s no way to compare that.

Maybe that’s why it’s so hard to be content.  We’re so steeped into the paradigm of analysis and correlation that being happy with what you have—void of what anyone else is doing—is mind boggling.  Where are the numbers in happiness?  Where is the data?  Where are the graphs?

I don’t have those answers.  After all, that would be a contradiction.  However, I think you have an idea of my feelings on the issue.

Analysis and comparison has its place.  There is a lot to learn from numbers and correlation.  However, I find it important to not always be caught up in what can be proven or defined.  It’s a fine line to walk—especially when dealing with issues of the heart, like contentment.  Oh, the trials of being human.

About Jonathan Seligman

Jon is the Co-Founder and Executive Editor of NWYT. While his main profession is in education/music/history, he has a deep passion for philosophy, theology, ice cream, and everything else that life has to offer. See All of Jon's Posts

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